Hainan may become first Chinese province to legalize online betting

Gambling is to be permitted in Hainan, at least according to Bloomberg—but experts say legislation, if approved, will only allow “online betting and lotteries,” rather than physical casinos.

Gambling has long been forbidden on the mainland, and online lotteries were barred in 2015, although Vegas-style casinos are allowed in the autonomous Macau. A southern island like Hainan, the Special Administration Region earns 38 billion USD a year for its privileges. Bloomberg’s report, based on a source citing December’s “Hainan Tourism Development Plan 2017 – 2030,” was cautious, and rules are likely to impose betting limits and entry criteria, but some will hope this is a precursor to turning the province—or at least its southernmost city Sanya—into a full-blown gaming resort.

Indeed, dozens of “online competitive gaming” companies seem to have sensed the political winds early, and registered themselves in Hainan: Many have names which imply state ownership, such as Guokai (China Development Bank) and Zhongxin (Citic). Zhongmin Guokong, for example, which “combines senior care and online gaming, [and] develops and issues pension lotteries,” was registered in February 2017 by its namesake parent company, a retirement-property developer owned by the China Forestry Group.

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Risky Gamble is a story from our issue, “The Noughty Nineties.” To read the entire issue, become a subscriber and receive the full magazine. Alternatively, you can purchase the digital version from the App Store.


Han Rubo is a contributing writer at The World of Chinese.

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