- Chinese scholars are discussing the sensitive issue
of legalising games of chance on the mainland as a way
to stem the outflow of an estimated 600 billion yuan (HK$565
billion) annually spent on casinos and horse racing, much
of it in Macau and Hong Kong.
concern over the downside of gambling is also prompting
scholars to set up a toll-free nationwide hotline for
problem gamblers, a move that underscores official awareness
of the depth of interest in games of fortune. Discussion
of the problems and possibilities of gambling are both
taking place under the aegis of the China Centre for Lottery
Studies (CCLS) at Peking University, a government-approved
body set up two years ago to bring together scholars from
many fields to focus on gambling-related policies and
centre sponsored China's first international gambling
conference last week convened in both Beijing and Macau.
CCLS executive director Wang Xuehong said in an interview
that her centre is arranging for psychologists to train
volunteers to staff a hotline for problem punters because
of a string of press stories and letters received at the
centre about divorces, suicides and families made homeless
due to excessive wagering by addicted gamblers.
estimated that underground casinos in the mainland rake
in 10 times more revenue a year than the 40 billion yuan
collected from government lotteries.
at the conference was Peking University lottery expert
Wang Zengxian who was quoted in the official media as
saying that each year mainlanders are gambling away nearly
600 billion yuan on overseas casinos and horse racing.
He urged authorities to suppress underground gambling
and develop a healthy and well-managed lottery industry
as a ``catalytic agent'' for national economic growth.
suggested that the government test a casino operation
in some areas before eventually lifting the gambling ban
across the country.
Kang, director of the Finance Science Research Institute
with the Ministry of Finance, said authorities should
explore the relationship between the lottery industry
and the country's social and economic development.
free to travel, mainlanders are fuelling the boom in the
casino industry in Macau and elsewhere. Jia urged the
government to explore how to further regulate and promote
lottery activity on the mainland.
first allowed civil affairs ministries at different levels
of government to sell ``welfare lottery'' tickets 17 years
ago, then seven years later allowed sports ministries
to set up ``sports lotteries'' in which people can win
prizes by picking the winners of professional football
two lottery systems are now bitter rivals as ticket proceeds
largely stay with the respective ministries and fund much
of their budgets.
a series of lottery scandals, Wang Xuehong said education
ministries and other government departments also want
to set up their own lotteries to generate funds. But Wang
expects the next phase of liberalisation to involve horse
betting. More than 12 tracks have been set up around the
country and a thoroughbred breeding industry has already
taken hold. Thinly-disguised wagering has started, but
the Beijing Jockey Club recently halted races because
of a police investigation.
of casinos will take longer because, as with the lotteries,
almost every province and city will want to have their
own because of the revenue potential, Wang said.
the Communist Party took over the country in 1949, gambling
was to be eliminated as a social vice. Now, like capitalism
itself, it is back in full force.
poor people, especially migrant workers, often buy lottery
tickets or visit illegal casinos.
players visit Macau's casinos but some also spend more
than they can afford.
said China needs a network of treatment centres to offer
direct longer-term help to problem gamblers. Beijing is
gradually moving forward with liberalisation of betting,
seeing it as an acceptable diversion whose prohibition
only drives gamblers underground or overseas.
said CCLS intends to develop a gaming management MBA program
to assist in the industry's professionalisation.
Vegas Sands Corp, which owns Nevada's Venetian Casino
Resort and the Sands Macao Casino in Macau, has raised
the price of its proposed initial public offering to US$24-$26
(HK$187-$202) per share from US$20-$22 each. The company
could raise as much as US$619 million. It said it will
likely use proceeds from the IPO to fund development projects,
including projects in Macau and the United Kingdom.