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Hong Kong Gripped by World Cup betting

20 Jun 2006

HONG KONG -- As reported by Reuters: "Hong Kong may not have a team at the World Cup but that has not stopped interest reaching stratospheric proportions because of the craze for soccer betting.

"The current World Cup competition in Germany is the first since Hong Kong legalised soccer gambling three years ago and the territory's already healthy appetite for betting is at fever pitch.

"Soccer gambling was legalised to curb illegal soccer betting, which totalled at least HK$20 billion in 2001, the government estimates.

"Taxation of legal soccer gambling meanwhile raised HK$2 billion in fiscal 2004/05, helping push government finances into the black for the first time since the Asian financial crisis.

"Gambling on matches has become so popular that even 10 percent of school children aged between 9 and 12 said they planned to bet on World Cup matches in a survey by Watsons Athletic Club.

"Retailers and bars are keen to cash in on World Cup games, which begin at 2100 local time and go on until 0500.

"Shopping malls are packed overnight with some installing massage chairs to encourage people to stay for late matches. One mall has sleeping bags and shower facilities available for shoppers who spend more than HK$1,000..."

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