China’s seasonal lottery shutdown will be extended by 10 days to minimize further spread of the coronavirus currently plaguing the country.
On Tuesday, China’s Ministry of Finance announced that it was extending the previously announced 10-day shutdown of lottery sales to commemorate the annual Spring Festival. The shutdown, which started on January 22, was supposed to end on January 31 but will now be extended through February 9.
Fear – justified or not – over the rapid spread of the coronavirus has already significantly depressed Lunar New Year traffic to Macau’s casinos and the authorities in Beijing apparently don’t want to give lottery players a reason to come out of hiding and cram into lottery retailers to play their lucky numbers and breathe on each other.
The irony here is high, as there would be no reason to suspend lottery activity beyond the original holiday period if China allowed online lottery sales. But Beijing ordered a ‘temporary’ suspension of online sales nearly five years ago after uncovering rampant corruption at provincial lottery administrators.
Speaking of, earlier this month a Chinese court sentenced Wang Suying, a former director of the China Welfare Lottery Distribution & Management Center, to 11 years in prison for corruption that prosecutors claim deprived the state of RMB750m (US$108m) in revenue. Wang confessed to her crimes on state television in November 2018.
China’s lottery sales have been on a 10-month losing streak and are on pace to report the first annual sales decline in four years when the Ministry of Finance reports its December sales sometime over the next week or so. The full-year 2018 figures represented a nearly 20% gain from 2017’s results, although that was partly due to excitement over the FIFA World Cup.
The sales decline will almost certainly continue through the first two months of 2020 thanks to the seasonal shutdown now extending through both January and February. Presuming everyone in China isn’t dead by summer, the sports lottery should get a nice boost from the UEFA Euro 2020 football tournament.