China to back horse rac­ing, sports lot­ter­ies in Hainan

China to also sup­port sports lot­ter­ies in is­land prov­ince

The Star Malaysia - StarBiz - - Front Page -

HONG KONG: China said it would en­cour­age horse rac­ing and ex­pand sports lot­ter­ies in the south­ern­most is­land of Hainan, moves that 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 in the of­fi­cial Xin­hua News Agency on Satur­day. The prov­ince should also “ex­plore the de­vel­op­ment of sports lottery and in­stant lottery on largescale in­ter­na­tional games,” it said, with­out elab­o­rat­ing.

While the gov­ern­ment bans all forms of gam­bling, it of­fi­cially al­lows two types of lot­ter­ies – in­clud­ing one in which play­ers pre­dict the out­comes of in­ter­na­tional soc­cer matches. It also per­mits some horse rac­ing, though bet­ting is banned and the cen­tral gov­ern­ment had pre­vi­ously re­frained from pro­mot­ing the sport.

Any shift in China’s ap­proach to­ward gam­bling could end up threat­en­ing the US$33bil 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.”

Ma­cau, a spe­cial ad­min­is­tra­tive re­gion of China, is the only area of the coun­try where casino gam­bling is le­gal. The for­mer Por­tuguese colony is ex­pected to un­veil plans in com­ing months on how it will re­view and is­sue casi­nos li­cences that are up for re­bid­ding from 2020.

The bulk of casino earn­ings in Ma­cau comes from for­eign op­er­a­tors of lo­cal units, in­clud­ing Las Vegas Sands Corp and Wynn Re­sorts Ltd.

Hainan could favour lo­cal de­vel­op­ers and op­er­a­tors to dove­tail with Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping’s em­pha­sis on a resur­gent China tak­ing its place on the world stage.

In Fe­bru­ary, Bloomberg re­ported that gov­ern­ment agen­cies un­der a party re­form group headed by Xi were con­sid­er­ing pro­pos­als to sup­port the is­land, in­clud­ing al­low­ing on­line gam­ing and a lottery, re­lax­ing visa rules and en­hanc­ing in­fra­struc­ture.

The pro­posal could one day open the door to phys­i­cal casi­nos, which are cur­rently banned on the main­land, peo­ple fa­mil­iar with the talks said.

The moves were part of a pack­age of re­forms un­veiled while Xi vis­ited the is­land, which is often called “China’s Hawaii”. Hainan will adopt more open duty-free shop­ping poli­cies, boost the num­ber of in­ter­na­tional flights and and pri­ori­tise tourism.

Other de­tails of the plan in­clude: > De­vel­op­ing Hainan as a free­trade port with ma­jor el­e­ments of the sys­tem in play by 2020, and wel­com­ing for­eign in­vestors to in­vest in the prov­ince;

> Sales of fos­sil-fuel ve­hi­cles will be grad­u­ally banned in Hainan as the use of new-en­ergy and en­ergy-sav­ing cars on the is­land is boosted; and

> China will en­cour­age the de­vel­op­ment of vir­tual re­al­ity and ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence in the prov­ince.

Xi’s plan should in­crease the flow of lo­cal and for­eign tourists to Hainan, where en­trepreneurs and real-es­tate de­vel­op­ers have been pour­ing in bil­lions of dol­lars to build re­sorts and shop­ping cen­tres that have stayed mostly empty.

The prov­ince faces a fis­cal deficit amid the debt woes of HNA Group Co, it’s big­gest con­glom­er­ate that’s fac­ing pres­sure from cred­i­tors af­ter a global ex­pan­sion.

Xi at­tended the Boao Fo­rum for Asia in Hainan ear­lier last week, which brought world lead­ers to the is­land.

At the fo­rum, Xi re­it­er­ated pledges to open sec­tors from bank­ing to auto man­u­fac­tur­ing, and warned against “Cold War men­tal­ity” amid trade dis­putes with US coun­ter­part Don­ald Trump.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Malaysia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.