South China Morning Post – Hong Kong’s multibillion-dollar illegal gambling habit has been built on sports betting but increasingly sophisticated online bookmakers – operating from servers around the region – are now offering punters a dizzying array of betting options.
Bookmaking experts point to sites like Citibet, which offer odds on foreign exchange movement, commodity prices and on how stock markets will move.
“The world’s troubled financial system has often been put down to so-called ‘casino banking’ and the stock markets likened to casinos. Well here it is for real: illegal bookmakers offering bets on those very markets,” said an investigator from Hong Kong. “It may sound harmless to some, but with the amounts of money involved in global black market betting there is a real chance they could become just that.”
Last month, in a groundbreaking report, the International Centre for Sport Security (ICSS), a not-for-profit organisation – ironically, based in Doha, Qatar which is at the centre of a corruption scandal over Qatar’s winning bid for the 2022 Fifa World Cup – said that 80 per cent of sports bets placed globally were “transacted illegally”.
In an extensive report it described the character of bets in Asia as “uncontrollable” and said the region was one of the main drivers of a black market which “threatens the very foundation of sport”.
“Hong Kong provides a huge market for these overseas-based websites – mostly operated out of the Philippines, Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia – and increasingly we are seeing major players, some of whom are involved in the Macau casino junket business, getting involved because they see the massive potential to make money with relatively little outlay,” said the Hong Kong-based investigator.