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Gambling could help China's economic survival

LIBERALIZING gambling laws could help China survive the global economic downturn, sports officials said at the annual meeting of China's legislature this week.

Gambling was banned on Chinese mainland after the founding of the People's Republic in 1949, with the exceptions of two state lotteries -- one run by the sports ministry to fund the building of facilities.

It thrives, however, on the race courses of Hong Kong and in the casinos of Macau -- both special administrative regions.

"I suggest we deregulate the lottery," Hebei Province member Yang Jingzhi told the sports circle at the ongoing Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference in Beijing.

"Our present lottery games are monotonous. We should fully introduce the international practices, such as betting on horses, 'mark six' and various others," Yang said.

"There are lots of types of lottery in Britain and the United States. Can we see any harm? As long as it is well legislated, there is not much harm."

Flushed with pride at Premier Wen Jiabao's mention of the success of the Beijing Olympics in his keynote speech, the members to the advisory body discussed ways sport could contribute to the economic challenges China faces.

"The sports industry in the short term can help maintain stable economic growth and employment," Deputy Sports Minister Wang Jun said. "The sports lottery can help create jobs. There are some 300,000 lottery ticket sellers in the country."

"We are facing a problem that underground casinos and overseas gambling have dangerously broken in, taking an estimate 10 times as much as our official lottery.

"In Hong Kong, where the legal lottery is well developed, the official business is 10 times as big as the private ones."

In November the central city of Wuhan hosted the first commercial horse race on the mainland since 1949. Gambling was limited, with prizes, not cash, for winning bets.


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