China’s lottery sales suffered a double-digit decline in 2018 and the coronavirus crisis will likely keep 2020’s sales broadly negative for the foreseeable future.
Figures released Monday by China’s Ministry of Finance show overall lottery sales of RMB40.9b (US$5.86b) in the month of December, nearly 5% lower than December 2018’s sum but a decent boost over November 2019’s RMB37.8b. Welfare lottery sales were down 9% to RMB18.76b while the sports lottery fared much better, dipping only 1.1% to RMB22.17b.
For the year as a whole, overall lottery sales were down 17.5% to RMB422b ($60.45b), with welfare lottery sales falling 14.8% to RMB191.2b while the sports lottery was down nearly one-fifth to RMB223.8b, reflecting the boost that 2018’s sales enjoyed due interest in that year’s FIFA World Cup. Only one Chinese province (Sichuan) recorded an annual sales gain in 2019.
December’s declines marked the 11th straight month of negative growth while the annual decline broke a four-year streak of positive sales growth. Hopes are high that the sports lottery will enjoy another surge this summer during the UEFA Euro 2020 tournament.
The current year will undoubtedly start on a negative footing after the authorities in Beijing extended the 10-day lottery shutdown for the annual Spring Festival by another 10 days to minimize further spread of the coronavirus. The idea is to limit situations in which potential victims might congregate together in small retail outlets.
The Ministry of Finance’s official lottery media channel is filled with stories of lottery retailers and their staff pitching together to donate money and anti-viral tools (masks, disinfectant, food and toiletries) to local police stations for distribution to the general public.
As ever, we must point out that online lottery sales would have allowed the government to keep earning revenue while also keeping its citizens safe from viral exposure. But Beijing ordered a ‘temporary’ suspension of online sales five years ago after uncovering wholesale corruption at provincial lottery administration centers.