An enormous amount of news and information is coming out of Japan and South Korea in conjunction with the 2002 World Cup, which got under way May 31. The interactive betting industry is right in the middle of the action, and to help keep everything in order so, IGN is providing this recap of important betting and technology-related news spurned by the event.
"This is quite simply the biggest betting event ever staged on the planet, and we are preparing for an explosion in football gambling."
Early Results are Good for Bookmakers
As the event starts its second full week, a quick check with some of the larger U.K.-based bookmakers shows that betting action from World Cup matches is on target, and in some cases exceeding expectations.
Leading the pack of those who have reported turnover and handle is Betfair.com. The P2P site says it's averaging between £700,000 and £960,000 per game and that Friday's England/Argentina game was its first ever million-pound match.
The global scope of the event has proved to fruition, as officials with William Hill said their Internet-betting site has seen punters from 30 of the 32 competing nations wager on World Cup action. The company said betting turnover from the World Cup could reach over US$500 million. Stakes already placed include a customer in Stevenage, Hertfordshire, who on Friday put down $65,299.73 for France, Italy, Spain and Portugal to win their groups--a bet that would result in a $266,793.78 win.
A Birmingham man, Adrian Fitzpatrick, could approach the US$2.61 million jackpot with a $2.47 million win after staking $274,258.85 at 8-1 on Spain to bring home the cup. France is the next biggest danger for William Hill, with, among others, a Cardiff customer investing $23,507.9 at 9-1 on them lifting the trophy. A Bournemouth punter, Simon Cooper, could scoop $65,299.73 after laying out $261.20, on 200 bets of $1.30 each. He has to correctly predict the outcome of each group and select the winner of each other match in the tournament, overcoming odds of 50,000 to 1.
Coral spokesman Simon Clare summed it up: "This is quite simply the biggest betting event ever staged on the planet and we are preparing for an explosion in football gambling."
William Hill has taken money for every country to win, including China and Saudi Arabia at 750-1. Online bookmaker Victor Chandler announced a range of odds on David Beckham, including 20-1 for him scoring against Sweden with his left foot, the one that was broken. According to odds makers, France is most likely to win it all, then Argentina, Italy, Brazil, Spain, England and Portugal.
Hong Kong Jockey Club Says WC Betting Hurts Revenue
Despite having a monopoly on the betting and wagering industry in Hong Kong, the Hong Kong Jockey Club predicts that bets on World Cup matches will cut into its revenues by 10 percent. Lawrence Wong Chi-kwong, the group's top boss, said the exact loss in turnover won't be known for sometime, but that it will at least be 10 percent. During the past two weeks, the club has boosted the Triple Trio pool in an attempt to lure punters who might be tempted to bet illegally on the World Cup. At the race meeting on June 2, the Triple Trio pool shot up to US$80 million after being topped up by the club from its reserve fund. The Jockey Club's betting turnover was down $1.55 billion halfway through the season. In February club officials warned that illegal betting on the World Cup would cut into second-half revenue.
Wireless Updates Fuel Betting Frenzy
Telecommunications firms in England are getting into the mix as well, and bookmakers are indirectly reaping the benefits of new technology. Your Communications, the business-to-business telecom firm with regional offices in Birmingham, is offering all of its mobile phone customers free text updates on England's progress in the tournament.
The decision to "back England all the way" comes despite the fact that the company has a Scottish managing director and an Irish director of mobile services.
The free service is being offered to Your Communications' 55,000 mobile phone customers on an opt-in or opt-out basis. The company says it is effectively a "discreet and intimate" results service for business users. Fans who don't want to know the score--or who can't bear to look--can simply opt out of the text updates as they choose, opting back in if they feel the time is right. . . or they simply can't resist the update. Every game in every round in which England is involved will be covered until they are knocked out. In total, if England goes all the way, free text messages will be on offer for 21 matches.
Report Sees Infiltration of Illegal Bookmakers
Malaysian and Singaporean bookmakers have turned hotel rooms in Hat Yai city into centers taking bets on World Cup matches. The Hong Kong Journal reported that foreign bookmakers, particularly from Malaysia and Singapore, have rented rooms at five-star hotels in Hat Yai municipality to take bets from local agents, who placed bets through mobile phones, pagers or the Internet. The bookmakers reportedly accept unlimited bets, the source said. Pol Lt-Col Jeerawat Payungtham, suppression inspector of Hat Yai police, said a special team had been set up to crack down on football gambling. The team has been keeping a close watch on the activities of some 20 major bookmakers in Hat Yai.
Police Sting Results in Four Arrests
In light of allegations of illegal bookmaking throughout Hong Kong, police set up a sting operation to track betting activity and were able to nab four illegal bookmakers who were running bets for the World Cup. Police arrested four bookmakers and seized slips amounting to 20 million Hong Kong dollars in illegal bets on World Cup soccer, officers said Saturday.
They also seized 11 mobile phones and two computers in raids on May 31, part of an intensified crackdown on World Cup gambling, spokeswoman Suzanne Lee said. Gambling is popular among Hong Kong Chinese, but for decades the only legal betting in the territory has been on lotteries and horse races. New laws took effect on Friday, the opening day of the 32-nation tournament, to ban placing bets by telephone or the Internet with overseas bookmakers. Despite warnings over the years, police said that during the last World Cup in 1998, police arrested 49 people for illegal gambling and seized 57.9 million Hong dollars in wagered cash. Many people interviewed by the Associated Press Saturday said their friends are still placing bets ranging from 100 to 5,000 Hong Kong dollars by telephone and the Internet on the tournament, which ends June 30.
SMS Services Bring in Revenue for Mobile Phone Operators
Although companies in England are giving away SMS updates on the progress of the English team for free, firms throughout Asia are using the opportunity to cash in on its service. Some operators expect that many people who are unable to watch the matches live will pay for updates using the Short Message Service (SMS). Advanced Info Service Plc (AIS), the largest operator, is offering the service to subscribers at a price of 99 Thai baht (US$2.33) per round of matches, the first round covering all 32 teams, the second 16 teams and the third, the final eight. Subscribers wanting more detailed information about a particular team, such as the playing line-up, must add 99 baht per team, said Arthorn Techatantiwong, AIS's marketing manager. Total Access Communication Plc, the DTAC operator, is also providing match results via SMS, with real-time reports of all goals transmitted in co-operation with Siam Sport Daily. The company will charge a flat fee of 390 baht (US$9.19) for all information during the World Cup.
With Beckham OK, Bets Rise in England
It was the perfect case study on how close bettors monitor news and reports regarding their favorite team. Last week when English superstar David Beckham was given the all clear from team doctors, bets on the national side soared with bookmakers.
Coral said it was taking thousands of bets on England winning the World Cup at 10-1 from patriotic gamblers. The company said that professional high rollers were still having four-figure flutters on France, Italy and Spain. France, the defending champion is in a tight spot to advance out of group play after an opening loss and draw this week.
Thai Bettors Expected to Be Big Spenders
Thais will probably spend at least US$707 million betting on World Cup games during the month-long tournament that kicked off in Seoul Friday, according to a Thai Farmers Research Center survey. The Thai Farmers Bank Pcl unit said gamblers will bet an average of 2,600 baht (US$61) per match, 13 percent more than the average at the last World Cup. Soccer betting is illegal in Thailand. Bookies take bets by mobile phone and accept payment by direct bank transfer. The World Cup is Thailand's most-watched sports event even though the Southeast Asian country has never qualified to play in the tournament. The nation finished last in its five-team group in the Asian qualifying round. Thais will bet about 25 percent less on the lottery, boxing and horse racing during the tournament to save money for soccer, according to the survey of 1,691 Bangkok residents. Thailand bans all gambling except the state lottery and at horse tracks.
BETDAQ Attracts Bettors
The World Cup continues to attract massive interest at BETDAQ. The 4/1 on France to repeat as winners has gone off the boards at many Internet bookmakers, but the odds can still be found thanks to the popular P2P format. Exchange members are standing their ground with over £8,000 available to backers at odds of 5.1 and 5.0. Match betting is also available for all the early matches with England offered at 2.20 in fixed odds and at 2.19 (- 1/2) in Asian handicap betting on BETDAQ's international service More than £60,000 was matched on their opening game.
Orange Gets Onboard with Wireless Services
Orange, one of England's biggest wireless service providers, announced a range of services to deliver breaking World Cup news to mobile phone users. The group has developed a range of personalized text alerting offerings to accommodate different fans' needs. The World Cup Watch for England Fans package promises goal alerts and breaking news for all England games. There is also a similar service for Ireland fans and a comprehensive offering dubbed World Cup Watch for Fanatics. The England and Ireland packages cost £7.99 each for the duration of the tournament and it's £9.99 for the Fanatics' deal. It covers all England and Ireland group matches and every match from the second round onwards. Other services on offer during the World Cup include audio results and teams news, available by dialing 177. The service is charged at 40 pence per minute. There is also live WAP news and betting from the World Cup section of the Orange WAP portal.
British Politician Puts His Money Where is Heart is
Britain's sports minister is putting his money where his mouth is by betting £500 pounds on England to win the World Cup. Sports Minister Richard Caborn got 9-1 odds from William Hill for Thursday's wager. If England takes the World Cup, Caborn plans to donate his winnings to the Macmillan Nurses Appeal. If he doesn't, William Hill will donate his bet to the same charity. England is regarded among the second-tier favorites behind the big four: defending champion France, four-time champion Brazil, three-time champion Italy and two-time champion Argentina.
Wired for the Cup
A Japanese railway company plans to offer free Internet access for personal computer users riding first-class cars aboard trains connecting Tokyo's main international airport at Narita and Tokyo during the World Cup finals. The Yomiuri newspaper said Thursday that a group of companies, including East Japan Railway, conducted a test on the new service aboard a Narita Express train running at the maximum speed of 130 kph (80 mph) on Wednesday. Users of PCs linked to mobile phones will be able to obtain information on soccer games and send e-mails free of charge either on the train or at the New Tokyo International Airport at Narita located 65 kilometers (40 miles) northeast of Tokyo. It takes about 50 minutes by train from Narita to Tokyo Station in the center of the Japanese capital.