China Supports Horse Racing in Hainan, Legalized Gambling Could be Next

By Bridget O'Donnell, April 23, 2018

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China recently unveiled a series of new policies aimed at giving a major economic boost to Hainan, AKA 'China's Hawaii.'

On the 30th anniversary of the establishment of Hainan province, government leaders announced that the entire tropical island would become a pilot international free-trade zone.

According to the official plan, Hainan is set to develop a fully mature free trade port system by 2035, with multinantional companies and foreign investors being encouraged to establish businesses on the island. In response to the news, stocks for Hainan-listed shares soared — especially those in the tourism and property sectors.

Hainan. Image via Flickr

Among some of the other announced reforms aimed at opening up Hainan's economy include improved duty-free shopping policies, an increase in international flights and other measures prioritizing the island's travel sector, according to Bloomberg. The agriculture, technology, finance, sports and entertainment industries are also expected to benefit from the policies.

To help the island become a major international tourist destination, China will also support horse racing and other recreational projects such as beach and water sports. The island was further advised to "explore the development of a sports betting and instant lottery on large-scale international competitions," according to somewhat vague guidelines released by the government.

Many experts have speculated that the decision to support horse racing could be the gateway for legalizing gambling on the Chinese mainland. 

Gambling is only legal in Macau. Image via Flickr

Gambling and casinos are both currently banned everywhere except Macau, but some types of sports lotteries are still allowed. Horse racing without betting is also permitted, though the activity has never officially been supported by the government. 

China has set an ambitious target of 80 million tourists (including 1.2 million international visitors) to the island by 2020. A new visa-free policy for visitors from 59 countries is set to go into effect on May 1, 2018.

[Top image via Flickr]

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