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The World's Biggest Ever Betting Event

15 June 2006

The massive international popularity of the football World Cup, coupled with the abundance, accessibility and user-friendliness of interactive gambling technology in 2006, will likely result in the largest betting event in history. Bookmakers, both online on offline, as well as media companies and law enforcement officials, have made special preparations for the World Cup and will be focusing on it for the next few weeks.

Interest and betting on the World Cup is, of course, hottest in Europe. In the United Kingdom, the BBC has made live streaming broadcasts of all World Cup games available via its Web site, but the stream is only available to viewers located in England because the tournament's media rights holders sell the rights on a country-by-country or regional basis.

Nielsen//NetRatings has already compiled Web surfing data for the tournament and reports that about 2.5 million Britons logged on to sports and gambling Web sites during its first week. More than 1.1 million Britons visited sports and gambling sites on Sunday when England played Paraguay.

According to Nielsen//NetRatings, Ladbrokes.com was the most popular gambling site over the week, with 114,000 unique visitors, and Betfair.com was the stickiest. The average Betfair visitor stayed connected for one hour and 10 minutes, which is nearly twice as long as the 39-minute average for sports betting sites and more than four times as long as the 16-minute average for sports news sites.

The Betting

Before the start of the tournament, a spokesperson for William Hill hinted at his company's betting expectations for the tournament. "The World Cup will shatter every known betting record," he said, "with British bookmakers alone taking over £1 billion--double the turnover from the 2002 event, and resulting in customers staking £1.3 million every hour of the tournament."

In the United Kingdom, the heaviest betting on the overall winner of the tournament is no doubt on the home team, which is very good and has a solid chance at winning, but such a victory would cost British bookmakers £15 million.

"Our biggest liability is definitely England," Nick Weinberg, a spokesperson for Ladbrokes, explained. "Yet, while England winning the World Cup would be far from the best result for the industry, deep down we are as patriotic as everyone else. And if we are going to get stung for £15 million, it might as well be England winning the World Cup. It would numb the pain somewhat."

Across the world, England is regarded as the team with the second best chance to win the tournament. Brazil is generally perceived as the tournament favorite, while Argentina, Germany and Spain round out the top five.

A relatively new innovation ushered in by interactive technology that is likely to be popular with the betting audience is live, in-game betting, which is now widely available via European bookmakers, some even via interactive television and mobile device channels. Wally Pyrah of Sporting Index told The Telegraph that his company's Web site took 12,000 bets in the final 15 minutes of the England-Paraguay match when it appeared as though the English team might give up a goal. Pyrah said that most of Sporting Index's bets are placed over the Internet and during the game.

Netcraft, a firm that monitors British Internet sites, reported on Tuesday that several popular U.K.-based online betting sites experienced brief outages that morning. Although the firm noted that distributed denial of services attacks were a possible cause of the outages, a more likely cause was an overwhelming amount of legitimate traffic. Ukbetting.com appears to have suffered the longest downtime at one hour and 44 minutes, while Totalbet.com was offline for 55 minutes and Betdirect.net and Bet247.co.uk were both offline for around 43 minutes.

In Addition to the Betting

Many online gambling companies have launched complementary portals and games offerings in conjunction with the start of the tournament. Portals providing tournament results and analysis are common on a lot of European bookmakers' Web sites. Betinternet.com has unveiled a new suite of fixed-odds betting games, called PANORAMA, that was developed by U.K. soft games developer Football 1x2. The games sites features Play Football, a game that Betinternet has operated since 2004, as well as Germany '06, Penalty Shoot-Out, Race the Ace, Touchdown, Keno, Keno Lab and Bingo.

Unibet.com has launched a World Cup-themed game developed by software provider GTS as part of its World Cup promotion. All players that stake at least 1 euro and score at least one goal in the game during a specified week will be entered into a draw in which they can win a ticket to the World Cup Final.

The West

Preparations by a lot of North America-facing sports books have not been as extensive as their European counterparts, likely because football lacks the appeal to U.S. and Canadian audiences that it enjoys in most of the rest of the world. Many North America-facing online sports books have made little more adjustments to their sites than inserting appropriate graphics for the World Cup, but some, like PinnacleSports.com, have done like the European books and launched informational portals. Virtually all sports books offer a wide range of betting propositions on the tournament, however.

The Law

In other parts of the world, the biggest stories related to the tournament involve law enforcement and illegal betting. Wagering among residents in Thailand is expected to reach close to US$1 billion, according to the Bangkok-based Kasikorn Research Center. Football betting is not legal in Thailand, however, and police have mobilized 100 special units to crack down on illegal gambling. News reports from the area indicate that many bookmakers have migrated to Cambodia and Myanmar to escape Thai authorities.

News reports from Vietnam indicate that World Cup betting will be huge in that country as well, even though the national team has never qualified for the tournament and betting on football is illegal there. Amid an illegal betting scandal, however, Vietnamese sporting authorities are considering options to legalize betting and to that end recently met with Ladbrokes representatives over the possibility.

Police in Sydney on Wednesday morning arrested six men from Hong Kong and two women from Malaysia who had been using a hotel as the base for an illegal betting operation. The individuals were taking most of their best from overseas, and police confiscated more than A$20,000 (US$15,000) in cash as well as computers, networking equipment, calculators, mobile phones and documents.

A chain of football lottery betting shops (to which Ladbrokes is a consultant) recently opened in China, but a large amount of illegal gambling is still anticipated, and police there have issued warnings. China Daily reports that special police campaigns have been launched to combat illegal betting and that officers will focus on underground football betting gangs and known betting locations.

The World's Biggest Ever Betting Event is republished from iGamingNews.com.
Bradley Vallerius

Bradley P. Vallerius, JD manages For the Bettor Good, a comprehensive resource for information related to Internet gaming policy in the U.S. federal and state governments. For the Bettor Good provides official government documents, jurisdiction updates, policy analysis, and many other helpful research materials.

Bradley has been researching and writing about the business and law of internet gaming since 2003. His work has covered all aspects of the industry, including technology, finance, advertising, taxation, poker, betting exchanges, and laws and regulations around the world.

Bradley Vallerius Websites:

www.FortheBettorGood.com
Bradley Vallerius
Bradley P. Vallerius, JD manages For the Bettor Good, a comprehensive resource for information related to Internet gaming policy in the U.S. federal and state governments. For the Bettor Good provides official government documents, jurisdiction updates, policy analysis, and many other helpful research materials.

Bradley has been researching and writing about the business and law of internet gaming since 2003. His work has covered all aspects of the industry, including technology, finance, advertising, taxation, poker, betting exchanges, and laws and regulations around the world.

Bradley Vallerius Websites:

www.FortheBettorGood.com