China’s lottery sales shot up by one-fifth in 2018 as the FIFA World Cup drove sports lottery sales to their newly dominant position.
On Friday, China’s Ministry of Finance issued its official lottery sales tally for December 2018, which saw overall sales rise 8.4% to RMB43b (US$6.4b). The gains were entirely due to the sports lottery, which reported sales rising 17.8% to RMB 22.4b, while the formerly dominant welfare lottery reported sales of RMB20.6b, a year-on-year decline of 0.2%.
For the year as a whole, overall sales rose 19.9% to RMB511.5b ($75.8b), the third straight year of annual growth and a new market record. Sports lottery sales shot up nearly 37% to RMB287b while the welfare lottery sales hit RMB224.5b, a far more modest 3.5% annual improvement. By comparison, 2017’s overall sales were up only 8% from 2016.
The sports lottery was once a poor cousin to its welfare counterpart but the sports product assumed the dominant position for the first time last April. The sports lottery’s dominance was assured by last summer’s World Cup action and it maintained that dominance through the rest of 2018, although December’s margin of victory was smaller than some previous months.
Of China’s 34 provincial-level administrative units, 30 reported annual lottery sales increases. Jiangsu posted the biggest annual increase, shooting up nearly RMB9b, followed by Zhejiang (+RMB8b), Shandong (+RMB7.2b), Guangdong (+RMB6.7b) and Henan (+RMB5b).
China’s state-run lottery operations – the only form of gambling permitted on the mainland – continued to be racked by scandals in 2018, including several senior lottery administrators issuing televised confessions of large-scale embezzlement of lottery funds.
The scandals have ensured that China’s ‘temporary’ suspension of online sales – which will celebrate its fourth anniversary in March – continues for at least the foreseeable future. China’s government has occasionally sent mixed signals on its online lottery views, but no tangible steps have been taken to lift the online ban.