China’s sports lottery is getting a serious boost from the 2018 FIFA World Cup, even without state-approved online sales channels.
According to the official China Sports Lottery website, sales for the week of June 11-17 totaled RMB7.33b (US$1.13b). The results reflect proceeds from the first few days of World Cup action, which kicked off on June 14. The sales total is 126% higher than the same week in 2014, the most recent World Cup year.
Looking at the first three days of World Cup action shows a distinct upward trend. June 14’s sales totaled RMB1.6b, rising to RMB2b on the 15th and then RMB2.3b on the 16th. Each day’s total represents a new record since the sports lottery launched in 2009.
The growth in this year’s World Cup lottery sales is all the more impressive given that sales are now entirely land-based, as the government suspended all official online sales in early 2015. The suspension followed an audit which revealed that many provincial lottery administration centers weren’t reporting all online sales while pocketing the difference.
But nature abhors a vacuum, and Chinese media reported this week that a number of popular online platforms and apps had been doing a brisk business via sports lottery sales. That is, until Beijing publicly reminded these platforms of the 2015 suspension and threatened backsliders with the usual consequences.
However, Chinese media noted that the cessation of this unapproved online lottery offering has led to a surge in informal World Cup betting pools on WeChat groups, with betting information being conveyed via private messages and money changing hands via the network’s infamous ‘red envelope’ feature. Wagers in some of these groups reportedly start at RMB300 ($46) and max out at RMB20k ($3,100).
Of course, every yuan spent via these unofficial online channels is one more yuan that’s not going to the government, which really should be sufficient motivation for Beijing to rethink their 40-months-and-counting online own goal. But hey, if common sense hasn’t prevailed so far, why start now?