Gambling costs World Cup fans their lives

Updated: 2014-07-03 08:18

By He Na, Meng Jing and Cao Yin (China Daily)

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Gambling costs World Cup fans their lives
Macao police detained 22 suspects involved in gambling on soccer matches on June 20 during the 2014 World Cup, with bets valued at $645 million.[Photo by Zhang Jinjia/Xinhua] 

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Huo Wei, in his late 20s, is a soccer fan who works in broadcasting in Beijing. He has bet 1,500 yuan since the event began, and while he has won some money back during the group phase, he has lost almost all of his winnings at the first stage of the knock-out phase.

"I have never bet on soccer before, but I found it really convenient. You don't even need to go out as you can place a bet on a computer or even on a mobile phone through a credit card or online payment apps," he said.

Huo said he often bet on Inc, China's second-largest e-commerce company.

"If you win, the winnings will be transferred to your account. Even my friend who works abroad asked me to place a bet for her," he said.

"To place a bet makes watching the match more interesting. But there is a contradiction. For example, I like Argentina, but I might back their opponents as the odds for winning are greater. In order to win more, I bet on Argentina losing," he said.

"I think the games, as long as big business is involved, may fall foul of backroom deals. So I never dreamed of being rich through gambling, but it can be fun if you bet just a small amount," he added.

Bets have taken off with the World Cup, and China's Internet titans are battling for a slice of the huge market.

Li Zichuan, an analyst with the Beijing-based Internet consultancy Analysys International, said that the World Cup is a major opportunity for companies to drive up sales.

"With the increasing Internet penetration in China, Internet, and the mobile Internet in particular, are more and more involved in people's daily lives and people are inclined to place bets online because it is more convenient," Li said.

Statistics from Caitong Consultancy showed that more than 70 percent of bets made during the World Cup are made online. But Li said that online lotteries overall accounted for roughly 10 percent of the total lottery sales market in China.

"Online lotteries usually account for more than 30 percent of overall lottery sales in developed countries. So it is a market with great potential," he said.

A recent report from Analysys International said that more than 50 percent of lottery buyers in China spent more than 10,000 yuan in 2013. Average spending on lotteries has been rising in the first quarter of 2014.

Many of China's Internet giants have been working hard to tap into this sector., China's largest customer-to-customer portal, has reorganized its web page to make it easier for soccer fans to place their bets and offered those who spend more than 100 yuan a chance to win a 500 yuan bonus.