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Kevin Smith

World Cup Recap

4 July 2002

An enormous amount of news and information is coming out of Japan and South Korea in conjunction with the 2002 World Cup, which concluded June 30. The interactive betting industry was right in the middle of the action, and to help keep everything in order, IGN is providing this recap of important betting and technology-related news spurred by the event.

Surprise Wins Mean Big Pay Day for Bookmakers

British bookmakers are celebrating their most lucrative sporting event ever after revenues almost tripled from the 1998 tournament. According to early estimates from William Hill, the gaming industry as a whole grossed about £250 million ($383 million) from the tournament in Japan and South Korea.

"It has been the biggest betting event of all time," said William Hill spokesman Graham Sharpe. "We took bets in over 150 different countries."

Ladbrokes, the biggest bookmaker in Britain owned by the Hilton group, is also sitting pretty.

"We reached expectations," said Ladbrokes spokesman Matt Finnigan. "The icing on the cake for us is that the tournament was very kind with results. . . like France, Argentina, Portugal going out early, then Italy falling in the second round as well. A lot of shocks was very good for us."

France, Argentina and Italy were among the favorites of betters to lift the trophy. In addition, many pundits took a flutter on French players Thierry Henry and David Trezeguet winning the golden boot for top scorer.

France failed to advance out of pool play and neither player scored a single goal in the competition.

Andy McIver, finance director of Sportingbet, sees disadvantages to the big names having gone home early.

"If you lose France and Argentina, Brazil and Germany are likely to play a lot of non-decent teams... you lose a lot of the appeal," he said.

He is hoping the success of the U.S. team, which reached the quarterfinal stages, will have generated interest in the game in the United States.

One lucky punter went home smiling after winning £400,000 on an 8/1 bet of £43,000 placed in April with William Hill on Brazil lifting the trophy.

Sportingbet wasn't the only primarily Internet-based bookmaker to make out well on World Cup action. announced that its World Cup trading through the semifinal matches was ahead of expectations. Customer accounts increased by 40 percent in comparison to the first three months of this year. The number of World Cup transactions per match day typically exceeded 10,000. Attracts Big Spenders

Even before the championship and third place matches were played over the weekend, the leading P2P betting exchange had surpassed all expectations with its World Cup betting action. said it went well beyond its goals in terms of the number of bets placed and total turnover.

The site reported that in addition to the nearly £7.5 million wagered on the overall winner, just over £70 million had been matched on other markets available.

More than 600,000 bets were processed prior to the final weekend. The biggest win for someone backing an outcome was a six-figure sum on the Germany/Korea game, while the biggest win from a single bet was £32,017 backing Ecuador against Mexico.

The biggest single bet was £30,000 to back Spain at 1.7 to beat Ireland inside 90 minutes.

TV Ratings High in the US

Despite middle-of-the-night games, ESPN averaged more viewers for its World Cup coverage this year than in 1998.

Helped by the best performance by the United States team since 1930, ESPN averaged 963,000 households for its 24 telecasts, Nielsen Media Research said Thursday. That was up 39 percent from the average of 691,300 homes for 27 broadcasts during the 1998 tournament in France.

ESPN2 averaged 489,700 households for its 34 telecasts, up 52 percent from its 1998 average of 322,900 homes from 23 broadcasts.

Saturday's third-place game between co-host South Korea and Turkey was televised on tape delay later that day by ABC, which like ESPN is owned by The Walt Disney Co. Sunday's final between Brazil and Germany was broadcast live by ABC at 7 a.m. EDT, then repeated on tape delay that afternoon.

The United States' quarterfinal loss to Germany drew 3.77 million households to ESPN, a soccer record for the network. Viewership dropped to 1.11 million homes for Tuesday's semifinal between Germany and South Korea, and was 1.37 million households for Wednesday's game between Turkey and Brazil.

Due to the 13-hour time difference from the East Coast of the United States to Japan and South Korea, games started at 1:30 a.m., 2:30 a.m., 3:30 a.m., 5 a.m., 7 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. EDT.

In 1998, games started at 8:30 a.m., 10 a.m., 11:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. EDT, with the semifinals and final all at 3 p.m.

The next World Cup, in 2006, will be played in Germany, so the games will revert to morning and afternoon starts on the East Coast of the United States.

Bettor Uses Suicide as Way Out of Debts

A Hong Kong man burdened by debts from World Cup gambling asphyxiated himself by starting a fire in the sealed bathroom of his Bangkok home.

Nelson Hu, a manager at a garment exporting company, was found by his wife in the bathtub of their apartment early Tuesday, police Maj. Gen. Theerasak Nguan-hansa said.

Hu had apparently died overnight from smoke inhalation after starting a fire with charcoal in the bathroom. Police found ashes beside the tub, which was full of water, and the bathroom windows and the ventilation system had been sealed with duct tape, Theerasak said.

Five handwritten letters in the house revealed that 42-year-old Hu had accumulated debts of $238,000 by gambling on World Cup soccer matches.

Researchers at Bangkok's Assumption University last month estimated that Thai gamblers would wager $217 million on the World Cup. Gambling is illegal there, but widely tolerated.

Police Stay Busy Making Busts

Malaysian police smashed an illegal gambling syndicate with international links and arrested 89 bookies during the month-long World Cup tournament.

The syndicate was believed to have accepted bets for all 64 World Cup matches totaling 320 million ringgit (US$84 million), Malaysian media reported. Police mounted 136 raids throughout the country during the one-month crackdown, the Berita Harian said. Of those arrested, 34 were picked up in Johor state, 16 in Kuala Lumpur, 12 in eastern Sarawak state and 10 in Malacca state.

The Independent newspaper in the United Kingdom reported that the number of people arrested in Thailand for gambling in the World Cup since the tournament began was nearly 1,200. Five hundred sixteen bookmakers and 632 punters face three months of jail time, and police say they confiscated more than 3 million baht (£47,000).

Malaysia Site of Big Bust

With the FIFA World Cup 2002 soccer tournament coming to a feverish climax on Sunday, city police cracked the whip to bust a center with seven men acting as bookies for more than $460,00 million in bets in Kuala Lumpur.

That brought the number of suspected bookies arrested to 31 in the city, with the seizure of betting slips accounting for nearly $1.3 million since the World Cup kicked off on May 31 in Korea and Japan.

City police chief Deputy Commissioner Datuk Syed Abdul Rahman Syed Abdul Kadir said the men, aged between 25 and 35 years, were rounded up during raids on two condominiums in Taman Midah and Brickfields on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The two were acting as bookies involving nearly $66,000 in bets.

The next day, police picked up five men at the Desa Villa condominium in Brickfields, who were involved in nearly $400,000 in bets for the Brazil/Turkey second semifinal played in Japan.

From the two raids, police seized an assortment of paraphernalia comprising 11 computers, seven facsimile machines, betting slips and 12 mobile phones.

While local bookmakers are being brought to book, police discovered that thousands were taking online bets through the Internet via international betting firms like William Hill, Ladbrokes and Eurobet with the total sum running into hundreds of millions of dollars.

Hong Kong Officials Will Study Gambling Laws

The effectiveness of existing gambling laws in Hong Kong will be reviewed after the World Cup finals, Secretary for Home Affairs Lam Woon-kwong said this week.

His comments came as a survey showed that many people did not believe the enforcement of gambling laws was effective.

''I expect the relevant departments will thoroughly review, after the World Cup finals, whether the existing laws can effectively tackle [soccer] gambling,'' Lam said. "We'll consult the public further on the need to legalise soccer gambling.''

Meanwhile the government would continue to crack down on football gambling.

''Soccer gambling is expected to be rampant during matches but the police are cracking down,'' he said.

A Liberal Party survey of 1,511 people between June 7 and 17, found that 42 percent believed the police had failed to stop soccer betting, while 35 percent said the force had curbed gambling activities.

The survey indicated that more people were now in favor of legalizing football gambling than when a similar study was conducted last year.

World Cup Recap is republished from
Kevin Smith
Kevin Smith