In February, China’s lottery revenue fell to an absolute trickle following the suspension of all purchases, which have not yet resumed in Beijing’s capital.
Figures released by China’s Finance Ministry show lottery revenues reached just RMB1 m (US$ 141k) in February, down from RMB28.1b last year in the same month. Lottery activities had been discontinued for the Lunar New Year holiday in January but the suspension was later extended due to the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak.
The shutdown eventually lasted to 49 days, spanning the entire February month. As such, it is unclear how exactly the RMB1 m was created by the lottery. Lottery sales began to resume in limited capacity by mid-March and resumed by the end of the month in Hubei Province – the initial epicentre of the pandemic – with Hubei capital Wuhan resuming sales on April 8.
Several Chinese provinces have launched advertisements to alert lottery consumers about the resumption of lottery operations, including billboards explaining how lottery funds benefit charitable causes, essentially portraying lottery purchases as something of a patriotic responsibility.
The provincial government of Hubei went as far as commemorating the resumption of sales by giving the first paper ticket sold to a local museum as a ‘testimony to the fight’ COVID-19.
Sales have yet to restart in Beijing as the authorities appear intent to reduce any second wave of COVID-19 infections, particularly in the nation’s capital where most of the local operations of the international media are centred.
Meanwhile, officials in Beijing have advised local lottery players to be vigilant and “refuse ‘black lotteries and stay away from illegal gambling.” China’s Public Security Ministry recently announced a new campaign targeting online gambling sites that are globally licensed, including a new emphasis on ‘underground banking’ to hinder the flow of money to and from these gambling sites.
State-run lotteries also saw their retail profits drop due to social distance criteria in Western countries, prompting some to rethink their previous resistance to online lotteries. Five years ago, China suspended all online lottery activities in a bid to root out official corruption and has yet to state whether / when it plans to restart online sales.