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Authorities in Asia cracking down on illegal sports betting ahead of World Cup

Sports betting is estimated to have revenues of $680 billion per year, with 80 percent of it considered illegal. More than half of that 80 percent is estimated to be from Asia.
By Aileen Graef   |   June 11, 2014 at 10:40 AM   |   Comments

BEIJING, June 11 (UPI) -- Authorities in Asia are cracking down on illegal sports gambling just as the 2014 World Cup in Brazil is about to begin on Thursday.

Illegal betting on sports has grown as a worldwide industry with its value estimated to be around 80 percent of the $680 billion made in sports gambling per year. More than half of this percentage is believed to be from Asia. According to the International Business Times, four of the top ten gambling countries or city-states in the world are from the Asia continent. China, South Korea, and Hong Kong are in the top five, while Japan comes in at number nine.

China and Hong Kong count for a large amount of the industry. Approximately 60 percent of the population in Hong Kong bet on sports events. There is only one place to legally gamble in Hong Kong and that is at The Hong Kong Jockey Club, which made $6.5 billion in 2013 from soccer betting alone. Patrick Jay, director of trading at HKJC, said the links between illegal sports betting and organized crime makes gambling with anyone other than the Jockey Club a "blood crime."

Jay's statement is not surprising as unofficial channels, such as online gambling sites, are believed to make several times their $6.5 billion. Authorities in China and Hong Kong have begun targeting these websites. Police in Hong Kong and Guangdong province seized millions of dollars in cash and arrested 29 people on suspicion of running an illegal online gambling syndicate but not before $100 million had been wagered with most of the bets on the World Cup.

Authorities aren't the only ones discouraging illegal sports gambling. Yau Wing-Kwong, chairman of the Ping Wo fund, is running a campaign against betting on the World Cup.

"The World Cup is about sportsmanship. It's about skills. It's about our football stars. They are not running around to make money for you," Yau told the BBC.

Anti-gambling activists will continue their campaign efforts throughout the World Cup, promoting that it is a sporting event, not a betting one.

Follow @AileenGraef and @UPI on Twitter.
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