China has announced its plans for the future Hainan, including suggestions to offer horse racing and an expanded sports lottery in the region, as part of a wider national push of ‘comprehensive deepening of reform and opening up’.
Discussing the development of Hainan, during the 30th anniversary celebration of the founding of China's smallest and most southern province, President Xi Jinping outlined his country's plans to make the region an international tourist destination as well as an ecological zone.
The suggestions approved by Xi included, to ‘encourage the development of horse racing’, and to ‘explore the development of quiz-type sports lottery tickets and large-scale international events that open lottery tickets’.
Although the plan did not include details as to how the new potential horse racing or extended sports lotteries would be offered, the development falls in line with the opinions held by many Chinese analysts who believe that Hainan will be the first province in the country to offer broader gambling services.
The thought behind Hainan’s development will be to create a ‘free trade port’ island, similar to Singapore and Hong Kong. These reforms are intended to open up Hainan’s economy to foreign development and potentially allow gambling in the future to increase its tourist appeal.
It must be noted that this is not the first time Hainan has been considered as a testing ground for China’s potential gambling industry. The State Council had previously approved plans in 2010 to see Hainan become a ‘testing ground for China’s lottery and gambling industry’. The report seemed to gather little momentum and withered away.
However, this current plan is being spearheaded by President Xi at a time where he has far more control over the country than his predecessor, Hu Jintao, and the State Council that had approved previous plans.
Currently, gambling is largely prohibited in China. Residents can participate in state-run lotteries or travel to either of the current special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau.
Despite being vague, this announcement could have huge implications for the gambling industry in South East Asia. Macau, the world’s largest gaming hub, could see staunch competition from the province in the future if these reforms were to ever evolve to allow the building of casinos or integrated resorts.
The announcement was made by Xinhua News Agency, following approval by the Chinese Central Committee, for the suggested reforms put forward to them by the Communist Party and State Council.