China has warned online sports lottery platforms to halt their sales or face the consequences.
On Monday, Chinese media outlet the Global Times reported that online sports lottery platforms were doing a brisk business following last week’s kickoff of the 2018 FIFA World Cup. There’s just one problem: Beijing officially ordered the ‘temporary’ suspension of online lottery sales over three years ago.
On Wednesday, the Global Times published a follow-up indicating that these same online platforms — including an offshoot of internet giant Tencent — were now “phasing out” their football lotteries following a public warning from China’s official lottery administration center that these platforms were playing with fire.
Beijing never formally authorized online lottery sales, but did allow two operators – 500.com and Shanghai Media Group – to participate in an online sales pilot program. Numerous other online platforms also engaged in unauthorized lottery sales but evidence of widespread corruption at provincial lottery administration centers led the government to call time on all online sales in March 2015.
At the end of May, in anticipation of the expected surge in sports lottery activity during the World Cup, the Ministries of Finance and Civil Affairs teamed up with the General Sports Administration to conduct an examination of lottery operations to ensure operators were toeing the line regarding the prohibition on online sales.
Beijing has occasionally hinted at restarting its online lottery program and this January saw the state-run CCTV network urge the government to lift the suspension already. But Beijing has yet to signal when online sales might be allowed out of the doghouse.
China’s land-based sports lottery hit a landmark in April by overtaking the traditionally dominant welfare lottery product in sales for the first time. The sports lottery nearly doubled its sales during the 2014 World Cup, but land-based sales channels will have to shoulder the load during the current tournament.