China lottery sales yet to reclaim former glories


China’s lottery sales continued their slow climb out of the cellar in May while the courts delivered their latest blow to online gambling payment processors.

Figures released Tuesday by China’s Ministry of Finance show lottery sales totaling RMB29.2b (US$4.13b) in the month of May, a 17.7% decline from the same month last year but a nearly RMB6b rise from April’s result. For the year to date, sales are off 49.2% to RMB90.3b.

May’s sports lottery sales were down by one-fifth year-on-year to RMB15.2b, but that was RMB3.7b higher than April thanks to more international sports leagues resuming activity. Welfare lottery sales, which briefly reclaimed the sales crown in April thanks to the sports halt, fell 15% year-on-year to RMB14b, up from RMB11.9b in April.

China suspended all lottery sales in January as the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown took effect. Sales began resuming in some provinces in March, with Beijing being the last region to resume operations until May.

However, a new outbreak of COVID-19 in the nation’s largest city forced lottery operators to once again submit their premises for inspection by local officials intent on ensuring these venues don’t become hubs for ‘super-spreaders.’

Meanwhile, China’s renewed efforts to combat ‘cross-border’ gambling scored yet another payment processing scalp this week after eight individuals were sentenced to lengthy jail terms for enabling RMB4.7b ($666m) in payments on behalf of internationally licensed online gambling operators.  

Local media reported that a court in the city of Hangzhou in Zhejiang province had sentenced the payment group’s ringleader to a stiff term of 12.5 years in prison and a financial penalty of RMB50m while his accomplices received prison terms of between two and seven years. The activity in question occurred between January and September 2018.

Finally, Chinese authorities have a word of warning to the country’s social media users: that sexy selfie you post via platforms such as Weibo could well end up in the marketing material of internationally based gambling operators and there will be little you can do to remedy this situation. So caveat temptress.