Nearly $7bn Raised through China’s Sports Lottery during World Cup

The great Wall of China with Chinese flag in the sky

Almost $7bn (£5.33bn) was wagered in China’s state sports lottery during the recent World Cup tournament. This staggering figure shows how popular this form of sports betting is in the country, where it is the only legal way for residents to bet on sporting events.

Lottery performance in China

Gambling is constantly becoming more and more popular in China, despite strict laws governing it. Authorities have staged a number of high-profile operations to shut down unauthorized gambling operators but a lot of them are still slipping through the net.

Meanwhile, the state-run sports lottery has smashed past all previous records for money taken in during the recent World Cup period. The compiled sales during the duration of the tournament reached $6.9bn (£5.25bn), which is almost four times as much as was bet during the 2014 tournament. This is certainly an astonishing sum that the government will be pleased about.

Of course, this is the total revenue and not the level of profit that the government generated. The government stated that about $5bn (£3.81bn) was paid out to winners, with the government retaining about $410m (£312m) for its own purposes. Most of that money went to social welfare programs.

The individual one-day record for funds raised through the sport’s lottery history was in advance of the final between Croatia and France, where $410m (£312m) was wagered. The highest single day during the 2014 tournament brought in just rmb874m ($128.6m; £98.2m).

On average during this year’s World Cup, $210m (£160m) a day was wagered, which is equivalent to the total revenues per week in advance of the tournament. Online lottery sales were allowed in 2014 but are no longer permitted, which makes this year’s performance even more impressive.

There was a temporary suspension of online sales in 2015. That was done because audits show that provincial lottery administrators had not been accurately reporting all of the online sales to the central government.

Tough measures by authorities

China does not tolerate people who don’t follow the letter of the law, and the authorities will be sure to teach them the consequences when there are breaches. A number of raids and closures of illegal gambling operations took place in China during the World Cup.

On July 12, nine people in Hunan Province were arrested because of an online betting operation they had been running through the WeChat messaging app. A few days later, officials in Zhejiang Province made 32 arrests after they discovered that a group of operators was putting money through international betting websites to cater to bettors in China. More than $1.5m (£1.14m) was wagered through this scheme.

In the biggest operation in China during the World Cup, more than 540 people were arrested during a series of raids conducted by more than 20 separate law enforcement agencies. These raids and arrests occurred in Guangdong Province and targeted the operators of dozens of illegal online gambling sites.

Authorities said that over $1.5bn (£1.13bn) was wagered through these illegal operations.

Gambling levels in China

The government offers two lotteries offered to the Chinese public. The China Sports Lottery funds the country’s athletes and sports organizations. The Welfare Lottery is the primary funder of social welfare programs.

Gambling is not allowed in the country, but the government does not deem the lotteries to be a form of gambling. Normal forms of gambling are legal only in the regions of Macau and Hong Kong. While some parties were trying to take advantage of the growing appetite for a gambling fix in China, the attempt to legalize casinos was defeated. In June, every type of online poker was banned.

While the Welfare Lottery is the same as most other pick-and-draw lotteries, the Sports Lottery gives participants the chance to bet on the results of specific sports events. This is why there has been such a rise in the incidence of illegal gambling rings. With economic prosperity widespread in recent years, people now have more disposable income. Many of them are deciding to put this disposable income towards the lotteries.