After almost 60 years of being against the law in mainland China, the government has made the first move to legalize betting on horse races. On Novemeber 29th, the Testing Event of China Spaeed Horse Race Open was held in Wuhan in the Hubei province of central China. Spectators were able to wager on two of the four races that were held at the Orient Lucky City Racecourse. These wagers were free to place and winners were given 20 instant lottery tickets by the sports lottery administration.

This is just a tentative reach into the realms of legalized gambling on the part of the Chinese government as all forms of gambling are still illegal by all official laws. The deputy head of Wuhan’s sports administration told media that the races occurred as a test of the racetrack, betting rules and the administration.

“The test run is preparation for an official event in the future,” Wang said. “If approved, the number of China’s horse races, with betting, will be upgraded to regular events being held once or twice a week.”

Wang also told media that the test races went smoothly but he would not speculate as to when horse betting might become a regular and legal event. One experiment officials are doing is for bettors that guess correctly the winner of a horse race to get a lottery ticket that has a 60% chance of winning a cash prize up to the equivalent of $600.

Legal, organized gambling is only permitted in two cities, Hong Kong and Macau – both under a different administrative system. Hong Kong is a major horse racing center and Macau is a casino haven that recently surpassed Las Vegas. Since the communists government came to power back in 1949, there has been no gambling allowed anywhere on mainland China.

The movement towards legalizing horse racing and gambling has been led by Wuhan since back in 2005. Qin Zunwen of the Hubei provincial academy of social sciences has said that the horse racing indusry could help create 3 million jobs as a nationwide betting network is put in place. Annual sales from the lottery are projected to reach as much as 100 billion yuan and gain the government 40 billion yuan in additional tax revenues.