Giddyup, China ends 60-year ban on horse racing

SHANGHAI, Jun Sat Jun 11, 2011 2:53am EDT

Jockey Darren Beadman (C) riding ''Packing Winner'' races along with other horses during the 2,000-metre Audemars Piguet QEII Cup Group One race at Shatin racetrack in Hong Kong May 1, 2011. REUTERS/Bobby Yip

Jockey Darren Beadman (C) riding ''Packing Winner'' races along with other horses during the 2,000-metre Audemars Piguet QEII Cup Group One race at Shatin racetrack in Hong Kong May 1, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Bobby Yip

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SHANGHAI, Jun (Reuters) - China has lifted a 60-year ban on horse racing, allowing weekly races to be conducted in the central city of Wuhan, state media reported on Saturday.

But no wagering will be permitted.

Communist authorities banned racing after taking power in the 1949 revolution as part of a broad sweep that clamped down on anything smacking of luxury and decadence.

Apart from the state lottery, nearly all forms of betting remain out of bounds for the Chinese, traditionally big gamblers. Both Hong Kong, a former British colony, and Macau, a former Portuguese territory, already boast a thriving racing industry and the latter also hosts dozens of casinos.

Racing in Wuhan, the first city to host a commercial race in 2008, will now take place from late August, the China Daily reported, and broadcast live.

Ten to 12 horses will be entered in four to six races and more than 200 owners have already decided to participate.

"People can win small prizes if they correctly guess which horse will win the race, but they can't bet on horses like people do during Hong Kong horse racing," Liu Hongqing, spokesperson of Wuhan's Orient Lucky City race course told the newspaper.

The races will be organized by the Hubei provincial government and run by Hong Kong-based Orient Lucky Horse Industry. The General Administration of Sports has approved the weekly races, China Daily said.

(Reporting by Melanie Lee; Editing by Ron Popeski)

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