World Cup ig­nites on­line match bet­ting

China Daily (Latin America Weekly) - - Front Page - By QIU BO in Bei­jing

China’s na­tional soc­cer team didn’t make it to the World Cup in Brazil, but that hasn’t stopped the coun­try’s soc­cer fans from plac­ing record bets on the out­come of the event.

Ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Sports Lot­tery Cen­ter, the in­dus­try reg­u­la­tor, more than 150 mil­lion yuan ($24 mil­lion) in bets were placed on June 12, the tour­na­ment’s open­ing day.

In the first five days of the sports event, na­tion­wide match-bet­ting sales reached 748 mil­lion yuan, up 482 per­cent from last year, while reg­u­lar lot­tery sales only rose 1.54 per­cent over the same pe­riod.

By June 18, ac­cu­mu­lated match­bet­ting sales in 2014 had surged to 17.6 bil­lion yuan, a 20-per­cent yearon-year growth. Match-bet­ting sales have al­ready ac­counted for a quar­ter of all bet­ting, the cen­ter said.

Match-bet­ting sales this year are fore­cast to reach 39.3 bil­lion yuan by the end of the year, thanks to bets on the world’s big­gest soc­cer tour­na­ment.

Sales by Taobao’s lot­tery ser­vice have also soared. More than 4 mil­lion bets were placed via Taobao’s on­line plat­form on the open­ing day of the cup. Within three days, the num­ber of bet­tors had surged to 6 mil­lion.

The FIFA World Cup is the first ma­jor sports event to be held since on­line sports bet­ting was le­gal­ized in China, said Li Zichuan, an an­a­lyst with con­sul­tancy En­fodesk.

Ticket sales com­pa­nies and agencies also launched many pro­mo­tional ac­tiv­i­ties to stim­u­late busi­ness. Taobao, for in­stance, said it would pay up to 100 yuan to each gam­bler who wins less than they bet on a game.

Shen­zhen-based 500.com, one of the big­gest and most in­flu­en­tial on­line lot­tery agencies, has promised a prize purse of 100 mil­lion yuan to any­one who cor­rectly fore­casts the out­come of all 63 World Cup matches.

Those in­cen­tives have gal­va­nized gam­blers. Zhang Bin, a 28-year-old tech­ni­cian, put 1,000 yuan into his ac­count to bet on World Cup games.

“It only took me a cou­ple of min­utes to place a bet and it of­fers sim­i­lar odds to Euro­pean bet­ting com­pa­nies” such as Lad­brokes Plc, he said. “It’s more con­ve­nient than last time the event was held.”

Chi­nese lot­tery or match-bet­ting pun­ters can eas­ily buy tick­ets through hun­dreds of web­sites, in­clud­ing pop­u­lar names such as Taobao.com and qq.com. But only two sites — 500.com and sport­tery. cn — sell on­line lotteries or bet­ting tick­ets with li­censes is­sued by the Min­istry of Fi­nance two years ago.

500.com was the first listed lot­tery com­pany on the Chi­nese main­land and the third Chi­nese dot­com to go pub­lic in the United States last Novem­ber.

“We can con­firm busi­ness growth dur­ing the World Cup games, but we’re not al­lowed to dis­close fur­ther fig­ures,” said Yan Dong from the lot­tery com­pany’s mar­ket­ing depart­ment, re­fer­ring to dis­clo­sure re­quire­ments 500.com is sub­ject to as a listed com­pany.

“Most web­sites, ex­cept those two, claimed they had signed un­der­writ­ing agree­ments with provin­cial-level lot­tery cen­ters, which are also au­tho­rized by the Gen­eral Ad­min­is­tra­tion of Sport,” said Wang Shaorui, an edi­tor with more than 10 years’ ex­pe­ri­ence at lot­tery web­site zu­cai310. com.

“So it’s dif­fi­cult to tell whether their on­line op­er­a­tions are against the reg­u­la­tions or not,” he said. “To me, they are more likely work­ing on the edge of risk.

“Gam­blers had best place bets through rep­utable plat­forms in case of losses,” he warned.

A spokesman for the Min­istry of Fi­nance said in May that it is very dif­fi­cult to reg­u­late on­line lot­tery sales, Xin­hua re­ported.

The spokesman also warned sales agencies should not sell lot­tery tick­ets on­line with­out ap­proval from the min­istry.

Spec­u­la­tion that more on­line-lot­tery li­censes will be given out be­fore sum­mer has spread widely through the in­dus­try since 2013.

In the first five months of this year, au­tho­rized agencies sold lot­tery tick­ets worth 142.3 bil­lion yuan, up 13.9 per­cent from a year ear­lier, ac­cord­ing to the Min­istry of Fi­nance.

In 2013, China’s on­line lot­tery sales jumped 82.6 per­cent to 42 bil­lion yuan, the min­istry said.

Peng Xi­tao, head of the lot­tery depart­ment of VODone Ltd, an­other on­line lot­tery com­pany, has pre­dicted sales will surge to at least 100 bil­lion yuan this year.

“Gam­blers used to ob­tain bet­ting in­for­ma­tion through news­pa­per but now they use mo­bile phones to learn and eas­ily place a bet,” Wang said.

“The heat of the soc­cer World Cup in 2014 will help fur­ther boost ex­pan­sion,” he said.

PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

Chi­nese soc­cer fans watch a game at a lot­tery shop in East China’s Zhe­jiang prov­ince.

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