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Illegal gamblers rake in big bucks from Brazil bets

Published:Thursday | June 19, 2014 | 12:00 AM
A gambler places a bet at a HK jockey club next to an advertisement for the World Cup in Hong Kong yesterday. AP

As teams battle for football glory at the World Cup in Brazil, the biggest winners from the tournament may be illegal bookmakers in Asia.

Since kick-off, Chinese officer worker Chen has already wagered 2,000-3,000 yuan (US$320-US$480) through black market online bookies, and plans to gamble more on big upcoming games.

Chen, who started betting on sports that also include NBA games four years ago, said that during the previous World Cup in South Africa, he bet 115,000 yuan (US$18,500) in a single day on three different games, a huge sum for the average Chinese, and lost about half of it.

Chen, who lives in the southern city of Shenzhen, next to Hong Kong, would only give his surname because he didn't want to get in trouble with authorities for betting illegally.

The demand for bets from Asian sports enthusiasts illustrates how the World Cup is also a huge bonanza for betting companies while focusing attention on the surge in illegal wagering in East Asia, where there are few legal options to accommodate the lucrative market.

"It is the biggest, single gambling event of the decade, and each World Cup gets bigger," said Warwick Bartlett, CEO of Global Betting & Gaming Consultants, based on the Isle of Man. However, "the propensity to gamble in Asia is stronger than anywhere else on the planet, yet there are few legalised gambling opportunities," he added.

Government monopoly operators offer legal sports betting in a handful of Asian jurisdictions, including mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore, South Korea, Japan, and Taiwan. The Philippines' Cagayan province is home to 68 online gambling companies. It's banned outright in many other countries, including India, Indonesia, and Thailand. But thousands more illegal online bookmaking outfits, which don't pay tax, are thriving because they offer better prices, odds, a wider variety of bet types and credit. Asia accounts for just over half of the illegal bets placed worldwide, according to a recent report by a sports monitoring group.

- AP