China may legalise horse betting: state media

China has carried out horse betting on a trial basis, signaling an ambition to restore a form of gambling that was outlawed by the Communists six decades ago, state media reports.

The test run took place on Saturday at the China Speed Horse Race Open in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, where spectators could bet on four races, Xinhua news agency said.

Each spectator was allowed to place two bets for free, and winners were given lottery tickets that gave them a chance of winning minor money prizes, according to Xinhua.

Qin Zunwen, an expert in horse race betting from the Wuhan-based Hubei Provincial Academy of Social Sciences, said once a nationwide network was set up the industry could create three million jobs.

He estimated that annual lottery sales could reach 100 billion yuan ($A22.38 billion).

"Offering a legal venue to bet on horse races could drive out illegal online gambling," he said.

It could also help cut down on underground and overseas gambling, he said according to Xinhua.

Wuhan was China’s horse racing capital from the early 20th century, but it lost that role after the Communists assumed power in 1949, banning all types of gambling.