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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Asian Cup set to boost regional gambling fever

Asian Cup set to boost regional gambling fever

Betting on major sporting events is illegal in much of Asia but it remains rampant,

and police across the region are on full alert ahead of the Asian Cup finals, reported

World Soccer News (WSN) on June 28.

In Phnom Penh, local police and officials from football betting syndicate CamboSix

told the Post heavy wagering is expected for the extent of the Asian Cup to be held

from July 7 to July 29, much of it via the Internet.

A CamboSix employee told the Post on June 28 that regional tournaments such as the

Asian and Tiger Cups are immensely popular with local punters, but not yet as popular

as the World Cup.

"In the last Asian Cup we had huge business in the shops and over the Internet,"

said the employee who declined to be named. "I cannot estimate how much we will

have next month, but I would assume it will be the same amount."

In March, the Ministry of Finance announced that CamboSix had been awarded another

four-year monopoly on sports gambling in Cambodia. At the time, the betting juggernaut

also retained its exclusive legal authority to conduct Internet football wagering.

Asian gambling expert Ted Loh told the Post that the revenue generated by CamboSix's

online ventures could possibly exceed the profits from its 21 betting franchises

across the Kingdom. Loh said CamboSix is an attractive option for gamblers in Thailand

and Vietnam-where gambling is outlawed.

According to WSN, one economic research center estimated that Thais bet nearly one

billion dollars on the 2006 World Cup.

Thai police arrested more than 750 people for illegal gambling during the four-week

tournament last year.

The Asian Cup, co-hosted by Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam, is expected

to attract such business but nowhere near the scale of the World Cup.

Even though communist Vietnam outlaws gambling, which is considered a "social

evil," betting on football remains popular and widespread.

In April the Ho Chi Minh City People's Court jailed 12 members of an illegal online

football betting ring and handed suspended terms to 10 more defendants.

The network had taken online bets worth up to $50,000 dollars per day on matches

in the Vietnamese domestic league and on games played in Germany, Italy, Spain, England

and in the European Championships.

Illegal bets are expected to be placed on the Asian Cup.

Asian Football Confederation president Mohammed bin Hammam has called for betting

to be made legal so it can be managed, and countries that have followed this path

claim success.

In Cambodia betting is legal and monopolized by CamboSix. In a previous interview

Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Son Chhay estimated that CamboSix was making at least $3

million per year. He added that the betting juggernaut contributes only 2 or 3 percent

of its revenue in taxes.

"Think about it: this is supposedly a free market economy where the government

can award a monopoly? There is no government system in place to control the cash

flow, Chhay told the Post in March. "To operate a business of this size you

must be close to the ruling CPP."

According to Loh, there are no fixed regulations on online gaming in Asia.



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