Chinese Officials Say No Horse Racing or Casino Gaming in Hainan Free Trade Zone
Posted on: October 19, 2018, 07:00h.
Last updated on: October 18, 2018, 04:47h.
Chinese officials are now saying that there are no plans to allow any new forms of gambling in the southern province of Hainan, ending speculation that the island might be home to horse racing or casinos.
That announcement was made on Tuesday, when the Chinese government released its plan to develop the province into a free trade zone (FTZ).
Casinos Not Part of Hainan Development Plan
Some rules will be relaxed in the FTZ, allowing foreign firms more access to Chinese markets in a variety of sectors. But when it comes to gambling, officials made it clear that there will be no special exemptions made on the island.
“There are some discussions on the Internet about opening casinos, engaging in lotteries, allowing horse racing, or going the route of capitalism and allowing full-scale private ownership,” said Liu Cigui, the Communist Party secretary of Hainan, according to the Hainan Daily. “These are all divorced from the national condition and reality, and they will never be allowed.”
That stance was reiterated by Kang Baiying, the deputy director-general of Hainan’s Foreign and Overseas Chinese Affairs Office.
“No, there is no plan for a casino,” Kang told The Straits Times.
The news follows reports which began surfacing in February that Beijing might be considering turning Hainan Island into a second legal gambling hub to join Macau. In April, the Communist Party Central Committee suggested that the province would be encouraged to at least explore allowing such activities.
The hope was likely that some form of gambling would help attract foreign visitors to the island. China has tried to market it as a tourism destination, but it has not proven wildly popular, with fewer than a million foreign visitors coming to Hainan in 2016. Now, with a national campaign against corruption underway, the winds appear to have shifted against even considering gaming expansion.
Industry Was Skeptical of Hainan Casino All Along
That decision doesn’t come as a shock, however. In May, most industry insiders at the Global Gaming Expo Asia 2018 felt that the chances were slim that Beijing would ultimately approve any major gambling expansion in Hainan.
“I don’t think there will be a land-based casino industry set up in Hainan, at least not in the foreseeable future,” Melco Resorts CEO and chairman Lawrence Ho told the South China Morning Post during the trade show. “President Xi Jinping talked more about developing lotteries. There was nothing mentioned about betting.”
Instead of gambling, the Chinese government is planning opening up access to foreign capital in other areas in an attempt to boost the province’s economy. That might include areas like tourism, medical care, seed production, aviation, and new energy vehicle manufacturing.
The Hainan FTZ is expected to be far larger than the others found throughout China. While other FTZs are 120 square kilometers (46 square miles), the Hainan FTZ will span 35,400 square km (13,700 square miles).
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