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Cryptocurrency Craze and Messaging Apps Boost Illegal World Cup Betting

New technology and the closer time zones will boost illegal World Cup betting activity across Asia, the Reuters reports citing statistics provided by police authorities and gambling regulators from around the region as this year’s biggest sporting event is just days away.

Gamblers from countries like Thailand and Malaysia, where football is massive, are expected to see substantial increase in betting on the upcoming matches. However, sports betting is illegal in both countries as well as in a number of other across Asia and the Asia-Pacific region.

The cryptocurrency craze and the rise of the technology supporting digital currencies are expected to further facilitate the anonymous (and illegal) placing of bets on World Cup matches, Reuters points out. Various messaging apps such as WeChat have, too, become widely popular among illegal betting operators over the years and will certainly be used as a means to target gamblers as World Cup matches are played.

Unlike Thailand and Malaysia, Hong Kong, a special administrative region in Southeast China, and South Korea offer legal sports betting services. However, local regulators have said that illegal gambling operators have long been stealing patrons away from the regulated businesses to create behemoth betting markets, much larger in size than the regulated ones.

How Much Will Be Bet Illegally on FIFA World Cup Matches across Asia?

According to Hong Kong’s Jockey Club, the special administrative region’s illegal betting turnover in 2018 will amount to $68 billion and will be heavily boosted by the World Cup. The horse racing operator further pointed out that Hong Kong is about to lose around $1.7 billion in betting revenue to illegal operations this year. The Jockey Club receives contributions from the tax revenue paid by licensed betting entities and these comprise 5% of its overall budget.

Pre-World Cup statistics from the Asia-Pacific region showed that South Korea’s illegal betting turnover could reach $79 billion this year, while Singapore’s could stand at somewhere around $6.5 billion.

The closer time zones between World Cup host Russia and other Asian countries is expected to further ramp up illegal betting activity. According to recent information from Transparency International and the Asia Racing Federation, Asia is home to the world’s largest black betting market, accounting for around 80% of the global illegal betting market, which stands at around $500 billion in terms of bets placed annually.

Macau, the world’s biggest casino gambling hub, is likely to see its June revenue suffer as Chinese gamblers, its core market, are expected to wager more on World Cup matches than at physical casinos, analysts believe.

Chinese police have been cracking down on illegal online gambling operations over the past several months and are expected to ramp up their raids during the World Cup. Police in other Asia-Pacific countries have, too, said that they would enhance their efforts to detect illicit gambling activities, although new technology would make their work even more challenging.

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