China to support horse racing, lotteries in Hainan

HONG KONG • China said it would encourage horse racing and expand sports lotteries in the southernmost island of Hainan, moves that people familiar with the discussions have said may eventually open the door to gaming on the nation’s mainland for the first time.

China will support the development of horse racing and other projects including beach and water sports in Hainan, according to a reform agenda approved by China’s Cabinet and announced by the official Xinhua News Agency on Saturday. The province should also “explore the development of sports lottery and instant lottery on large-scale international games”, it said, without elaborating.

Any shift in China’s approach toward gambling could end up threatening the US$33 billion (RM128.07 billion) casino industry in Macau — the world’s largest gaming centre — as well as other casino hubs in Asia. Macau has been shifting to attract Chinese tourists and families to the territory, which is the same market that Hainan currently draws.

“Horse racing has grown quickly in China in recent years, but it’s the first time the central government has promoted the game for a city and simultaneously encouraged further development of sports lottery,” said Su Guojing, chairman of China Lottery Industry Salon, a business group. “Although it still takes time to explore, Hainan may try to launch a lottery for more sporting events, including horse racing and rowing, to help boost Hainan’s tourism.” — Bloomberg