China’s official sports lottery continues to set new sales records during the 2018 FIFA World Cup, even as the authorities complain about rampant unapproved betting options.
According to China’s official government lottery portal, sports lottery sales over the first two weeks of the 2018 World Cup have hit RMB19.1b (US$3.9b), already eclipsing the total RMB12.9b recorded over the entire 2014 World Cup schedule. Projections are that total 2018 World Cup sales could exceed RMB50b ($7.5b), more than half of all sports lottery sales recorded in calendar 2017.
Li Gang, a lottery expert at Shanghai Normal University, told the Australian Financial Review that the increased betting was in part a reflection of the growing Chinese economy, but the rising popularity of social media was also spurring betting interest, thanks to users bragging about their successful betting picks on platforms such as WeChat.
Last month, shortly after the World Cup got underway, state-run media outlets warned Chinese social media platforms to purge themselves of unauthorized online sports lottery apps. Online lottery sales were “temporarily” suspended in March 2015 after some provincial lottery administrators were caught not reporting all their online sales.
But it seems some of these platforms didn’t get the message. On June 29, state broadcaster CCTV released a report detailing widespread gambling promotions on Tencent’s social platform QQ, which quickly responded by saying the offending groups and accounts “will be stopped and not be tolerated.”
The vast number of major upsets at this year’s World Cup have reportedly led to a surge in social media videos featuring irate bettors smashing televisions in frustration. Following Germany’s defeat at the hands (feet, actually) of Mexico on June 18, police in Nanjing used their Weibo account to plead with German supporters not to “throw yourself to your death.”
While that sounds like a joke, at least one housing estate in Shandong province chose to temporarily chain its rooftop entrances, ostensibly to prevent distraught bettors from hurling themselves onto the street below. The South China Morning Post quoted the estate’s management saying they were responding to the “recent stock market slump and World Cup surprises.”
Meanwhile, after weeks of inaction, Chinese authorities have finally begun rounding up some illegal online bookmakers. Last Friday, police in Shenzhen reported that seven individuals had been detained due to their involvement in an online football betting operation that handled wagers worth about RMB100m ($15m). It’s a start.