BEIJING, Jan. 7 -- Lottery regulations are being
relaxed in China's tropical southern island province of Hainan to assist it
becoming a global resort within a decade, marking a big step forward for the
country's lottery business.
The State Council, China's Cabinet, gave permission
to Hainan on Monday to "explore and develop" pari-mutuel sports lotteries and
instant sports lotteries on large international events, which is expected to
enrich Hainan's tourism resources.
It aroused media speculation that horseracing is
likely to be introduced to the island, or that Hainan would even become China's
answer to Las Vegas.
"Hainan has been given more space than other parts of
China to explore the lottery market, but it does not mean Hainan will break
China's laws," Hainan Governor Luo Baoming told a press conference yesterday.
He declined to confirm whether pari-mutuel
horseracing would be introduced to the island.
Gambling is illegal on the Chinese mainland,
according to Chinese laws.
Welfare and sports lotteries were permitted two
decades ago to raise funds for welfare and sports causes, and a regulation was
passed last year to legalize the lottery business in China, said Wang Xuehong,
director of the China Center for Lottery Studies based in Peking University.
Previously, pari-mutuel sports lotteries could only
bet on the results of foreign basketball and football games, not domestic games,
out of fear of match fixing and other unfair practices, she said.
"Now the rules allow pari-mutuel sports lotteries to
bet on the results of domestic and international sports events that are held in
Hainan, which will be a big step forward for China's 22-year-old lottery
business," she said.
Biking, sailing, beach volleyball and horseracing, as
long as they are held in Hainan, could all be the subject of the pari-mutuel
lottery in the future, she said.
The lotteries, as well as duty-free shopping, a
broadened visa-free policy and a harsher crackdown on illegal tourism practices
to improve Hainan's image, are expected to work together to attract more
tourists from home and abroad.
Hainan is expected to become a global tropical island
resort destination by 2020, and the tourism industry is expected to contribute
12 percent of GDP in Hainan by then.
To support the island's development, the State
Council has given the nod to Hainan to explore the possibility of allowing
domestic tourists outside of Hainan to do duty-free shopping on the island.
The Ministry of Finance is leading a feasibility
study on the practice as well as giving tax refunds to overseas tourists in
The news, however, worried some who fear Hainan might
shake Hong Kong's position as the shopping paradise.
To reject the concern, Hainan Party chief Wei
Liucheng said Hainan is only in the experimental stage, and it will take a
period of time for Hainan to build and develop a shopping environment matching
the level of Hong Kong.
"In the period we can foresee, a strong competition
between Hainan and Hong Kong is not going to take shape," he said.
Hainan will also attract tourists by further
extending its favorable visa-free policy to five other nations - Finland,
Denmark, Norway, the Ukraine and Kazakhstan - from the previous 21 nations
including the United States, Japan and Canada.
The requirement on tour groups from Russia, the
Republic of Korea and Germany will also be loosened to require a minimum of two
people, and they can stay for a maximum of 21 days in Hainan.
"Sanya in Hainan province is already in the top few
cities in China in terms of tourism facilities and service quality," said Tang
Yibo, supervisor of the holiday department of ctrip.com, China's leading online
"Now with the central government's policy support, I
believe Hainan will elevate itself in many aspects, such as infrastructure and
service, to an international level. It will benefit tourists more," he said.
Hainan received some 750,000 overseas tourists in
2007, mostly from Russia and South Korea. In total, it received 18.4 million
tourists from home and abroad in 2007.
(Source: China Daily)