Sports betting has surpassed lotto products as the most lucrative Chinese lottery segment on an annual basis for the first time, boosted by the 2022 FIFA World Cup and a likely surge in sales following the end of pandemic lockdowns.
Sports-betting products amassed 180.93bn yuan ($26.8bn) in sales in calendar 2022, easily breaking the segment’s World Cup-boosted record that was set in 2018 by 9.3 percent, according to finance ministry figures for December released on Monday (January 30).
The impact on sales for World Cup-paired months was more dramatic, with 2022 volume rising 34.2 percent over the 2018 figure.
The 2018 result for sports betting had doubled the haul of 2014, meaning that the 2022 result represents a tripling of World Cup-boosted volume in eight years.
The jump in 2022 is likely attributable in part to the end of China’s “zero COVID” strategy of pandemic containment and eradication in early December. December sales grew 38 percent over November despite far fewer World Cup matches being played after “zero COVID” was abandoned.
Beijing’s hardline and frequently oppressive zero COVID policy triggered street protests in late 2022 as increasingly transmissible versions of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus defied quarantine measures and lockdowns across the nation, as elsewhere around the globe.
The growing power of the sports-betting segment in China is such that Sports Lottery sales overall (276.52bn yuan) almost doubled the haul of the Welfare Lottery at 148.13bn yuan in 2022, four years after the former overhauled the once-dominant lottery mode.
Those numbers represent an annual increase of 19.7 percent for the Sports Lottery, but only a 4.1 percent increase for the struggling Welfare Lottery, whose mainstay lotto products slumped 4 percent to 155.42bn yuan in sales for the year.
Less popular instant lottery products helped to support overall Welfare Lottery growth with a solid 9.3 percent rise in sales to 5.04bn yuan.
Total lottery sales in China for 2022 jumped 13.8 percent to 424.65bn yuan ($62.9bn) but fell short of the industry record of 511.47bn yuan set in 2018, recorded prior to a crackdown on industry corruption and product development in 2019 and three years of pandemic disruption from 2020.
Still, the signs are good for Chinese lotteries, which are resuming momentum as one of the largest gaming markets in the world despite these obstacles and a stubborn moratorium on online sales of lottery tickets dating to 2015.