Wagers may be allowed next year Mainland authorities are paving the way for the reintroduction of horse racing, with the city of Wuhan to host a test run after the Beijing Olympics. Xinhua reported yesterday that the central government had approved the establishment of regular horse racing at the Orient Lucky City racecourse in the capital of Hubei province from September, and was considering the introduction of gambling on the races next year. Yesterday's Changjiang Times quoted Wuhan party secretary Miao Wei saying the State Sports General Administration (SSGA) had permitted the issuing of a 'horse racing lottery' in Wuhan in September. However, a senior manager with the Orient Lucky Horse Group Corporation told Xinhua betting on the races would probably not be introduced on a trial basis until next year. 'Initially about 250 horses from different jockey clubs around the country will participate in the races,' the manager said. 'But betting can only be officially launched when the races draw at least 2,000 horses.' A China Sports Lottery Administration Centre spokeswoman told Xinhua: 'The proposal of betting on horse racing is being reviewed and discussed but there is no concrete information on when or whether it will begin.' The newspaper quoted Qin Zunwen , head of the Chinese Horse Racing Intelligence Competition Research Group - an SSGAauthorised taskforce based in Wuhan - saying 'it is going to be different from that in Hong Kong'. The group's mission is to produce a betting format fit for the mainland. The word 'lottery' and the phrase 'intelligence competition' were used to neatly sidestep the Communist Party's long-standing prohibition of gambling on moral grounds. The reintroduction of race betting would 'boost state revenue, create new jobs, entertain the public and crack down on illegal gambling', said Mr Qin, who spoke to the newspaper about the benefits of lifting the ban. It has been estimated that about 600 billion yuan leaves the mainland each year for gambling in offshore casinos and racecourses. Mr Qin's research group estimated annual revenue of 100 billion yuan from the horse lottery, 40 per cent of which would go to state coffers, and the creation of 3 million jobs if betting was allowed nationwide. Horse racing thrived in China until the communists took power in 1949 and was especially popular in wealthy cities such as Shanghai. Wuhan, with three large racing tracks in those days, boasted a reputation as 'the Capital of Horse Racing'. The present track in the city, which is reportedly up to international standards, is located in a 1 million square metre lakeside complex, which also houses equestrian clubs, the Chinese Academy of Horse Racing and an exhibition centre. The city has sponsored an annual international horse racing festival since 2003 and has been the frontrunner to reintroduce horse-race betting since it was last banned in Guangzhou in 1999 following seven years of trials. Wuhan started to study the feasibility of introducing betting on horse racing in 2005 and had submitted several reports to the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, Xinhua reported. A survey conducted by the Hubei Academy of Social Sciences revealed that 83.3 per cent of Wuhan residents believed the introduction of betting would have a positive social impact, and 51 per cent said they were 'interested' or 'very interested' in gambling on the races. The Hong Kong Jockey Club was cautiously optimistic over the move last night, with chief executive Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges describing it as 'a positive development'. He said the Jockey Club had given the Wuhan Jockey Club the rights to duplicate the Hong Kong club's book of rules to give the new racing industry a proper legal and policy framework.