China considers legalising gambling in Hainan province

China is relaxing visa rules, building a new airport and considering allowing gambling in the southern province of Hainan.

The changes are part of a plan to attract foreign investment to the region in an effort to bolster its economy. The gambling initiative is still at an early stage, with government leaders considering allowing online gaming, sports betting or a lottery in Hainan.

This could open the door to physical casinos in the future. Currently, gambling and casinos are banned everywhere in China with the exception of Hong Kong and Macau.

Real estate and resorts developers are expected to the immediate beneficiaries of the changes. China has already invested billions of dollars into new roads, high-speed railways and other projects in Hainan, attracting prominent chains such as Hilton, Westin and St Regis.

Fosun International has built a $1.6bn Atlantis Sanya resort on the island, featuring a hotel, water park, aquarium and retail space. It is due to open in the second quarter of 2018.

Meanwhile, China Evergrande Group is building a cluster of hotels, theme parks, shopping malls and conference centres called Ocean Flower Island. It will be located on an artificial island off Hainan’s northwest coast.

R&F Properties is constructing the Hainan Ocean Paradise theme park, which was due to open in 2017 but has been delayed. The 133-hectare park will feature an aquarium, roller coaster and observation tower.

Wendy Liu, an analyst at UOB Kay Hian Investment, told Bloomberg: “If the model developed in Macau is tapped, then tourism and entertainment industries may be boosted along with gambling.

“The province may attract more shopping malls, hotels, providing an opportunity for related developers.”

Hainan is the smallest and southernmost province of China, made up of various islands in the South China Sea. It has a tropical climate and is known for beautiful beaches.

Image: c. Jamie Adams. 

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