China’s Lottery Sales Finally Bounce Back

Lottery sales in China finally bounced back from their long decline in July, posting their first annual sales increase in 18 months.

Figures released Tuesday by the Ministry of Finance of China show total lottery sales of RMB36.15b (US$ 5.28b) in the month of July, up 10.4 percent from the same month last year and 7.5 percent higher than the total of June 2020.

The gains from July 2020 were largely due to the resumption of major sports activity following this spring’s pandemic-related suspension of play. Sports lottery sales grew to RMB20.7b by 17.1 percent year-on-year, while welfare lottery sales increased to RMB15.4b by a more modest 2.6 percent.

That said, sales hit RMB160b over the first seven months of 2020, down nearly 35 percent from last year’s point. Sports lottery sales are down 35.6 percent to RMB85.3b while welfare lotteries dropped to RMB74.4b by 33.8 percent.

July gains snapped a prolonged streak of annual declines in sales that began well back in February 2019. Initially a reflection of the outsize gains made by China’s lottery market in 2018 as a result of the FIFA World Cup, this year’s declines accelerated as COVID-19 forced outright suspension of all sales, after which a long slow climb back to positive growth came.

Unlike many Western lottery operators, China’s lotteries were unable to compensate for their retail shutdown by highlighting online sales, as the country’s online lottery pilot project was ‘temporarily’ suspended in March 2015 after widespread fraud among provincial lottery administrators was found. The government has occasionally dropped hints of a possible resumption of online sales but there has been no official change to the status quo so far.

That has not stopped the circulation of rumours. A few weeks ago, China Sports Industry Group, a state-run entity set up to develop local sports through funding from sports lotery operations, was forced to deny reports that it was authorised to launch an online sports lottery service.

More recently, Macau’s Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau (DICJ) publicly refuted rumours that an online version of the popular Mark Six lottery was about to be authorised. The DICJ warned lottery players that this was done illegally by anyone claiming to be offering an online lottery service.