HONG KONG, Feb 2 (Reuters) - China is drafting a proposal to allow gambling on its southern resort island of Hainan, Bloomberg reported on Friday, a move that would allow betting on the mainland for the first time, sending shares of Hong Kong-listed casinos plunging.
Government agencies are said to be considering online gaming, sports betting or a lottery on Hainan, Bloomberg reported, citing people familiar with the talks.
The proposal, which is still at an early stage, could open the door to physical casinos over the long term, Bloomberg said.
The former Portuguese territory of Macau is currently the only place on Chinese soil where casino gambling is permitted.
Some casino shares plunged as much as 8 percent following the report, but pared losses by the close of trade with Galaxy Entertainment down 2 percent, Sands China down 1.4 percent, MGM China falling 1.5 percent and SJM Holdings sliding 2.6 percent.
In 2013, Chinese authorities shut down a cashless casino bar in Hainan after a Reuters report drew attention to it.
The owner of the resort that housed the casino bar had told Reuters at the time that the government was monitoring the concept of cashless gambling.
Gambling revenue in Macau skyrocketed 36 percent year-on-year in January on strong demand from big whale gamblers, while mom-and-pop mass punters eager to play in the country’s only legal casino hub also drove up business.
Reporting by Anne Marie Roantree; Editing by Sunil Nair