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Horse Lottery, Gambling and Chinese Football

December 5th, 2008 · 1 Comment · Business, Government

Some of our fellow countrymen never hated the word ‘lottery’ that much until BOCOG employed it in their ticket sales early this year. It may be convenient for most visitors outside of China to get their tickets from companies like CoSport or Aristeia, however, things are a lot more complicated when you’re on the inside. We’re happy to see that a new and better kind of lottery emerged last Saturday on Nov.29 in Wuhan, China’s Hubei Province, which, as Chinese media put it, is horse lottery or horse betting.

No, not gambling. It’s been almost a week and we haven’t heard that word from any of the mouthpieces here. CCTV, China’s main national television broadcaster, didn’t even mention betting at all in its sports channel when reporting the 6th China Wuhan International Horse Racing Festival (第六届中国武汉国际赛马节).

Held at Orient Lucky City racecourse, the horse races last week was a trail run. And will be held twice a week when it begins officially . Qin Zunwen, an economist at Hubei Provincial Academy of Social Sciences, told Xinhua that once a nationwide betting network is set up, the industry could create 3 million jobs and annual lottery sales could reach a staggering RMB 100 billion (roughly $ 14.53 bl USD), yielding RMB 40 billion (roughly $ 5.81 bl USD) in tax revenue annually. This must sound like top dollar to the local government especially under the current economic conditions.

“It’s a form of gambling – that is quite clear. All they have done is change the packaging,” said Justin Nicolson, owner and director at Running-Ball, a Singapore-based sports information provider to the casino and gambling industry. “The Chinese government would love to get a slice of the action without opening it up to outsiders, and thus by calling it a lottery and making it look like a lottery, it is one step removed from gambling in the eyes of those who are against it.” Justin’s correct. Gambling, once very popular in the middle kingdom, were banned along with prostitution by Mao Zedong since the establishment of the PRC in 1949. That said, with Internet, it’s a lot easier these days for people who have a zest for it. And Chinese bettors, as elsewhere in the world, do underground gambling as well.

According to Korean Times, several footballers in K3 League, an amateur football competition in South Korea, are recently involved in score manipulation, and people behind this happen to be some Chinese gamblers. Justin said the news didn’t surprise him, “Lower paid, lower league football players are potentially more susceptible to being bribed.” Score manipulations or match-fixing are, too, said to have long existed in Chinese Super League, the top football competition, and the 2nd division of Chinese football. Gong Jianping (龚建平), a Chinese FIFA international referee, was sentenced to ten years in prison by Beijing Court in 2003 for taking bribes for at least 9 times of more than RMB 380,000 (roughly $ 46,000 USD). Zhang Shuai, a first team player in Beijing Guo’an Football Club and a regular player in the Chinese setup, was also linked in a fixed-match case this summer. Zhang, however, wasn’t bothered by any legal charges. He retired from football in November to prove his innocence or some other unfathomable reasons.

Below are some of Justin’s suggestions to Chinese football:

CSR: Columbia football was once pretty much ruined by football gambling. In comparison, European football remain unaffected even there’re so many people placing their bets on the teams. What, in your opinion, are the key reasons that European football can stay clean and achieve greater results through the years?

Justin: Football and any other sport where betting is available is open to corruption and the manipulation of the outcome. Certain cultures are more open to corruption than others but the main factor is money. These days, most European footballers earn enough not to even comtemplate taking the risk of accepting a bribe as they have far too much to lose. However, that is not to say that it doesn’t take place. There have been many incidences of ‘fixed games’, particularly in Eastern Europe in such countries as Georgia, Serbia and Latvia.

CSR: What do you think the Chinese government should do to avoid football match manipulations by the gamblers?

Justin: Impose very strict penalties on players who are found to be involved in match fixing. Singapore being a case in point, where players can receive life bans and jail terms. These are 2 rare and high profile cases in Singapore where players have been found to be involved in match fixing: case A, case B

By contrast, recent match fixing cases in Italy have been met with relatively lenient penalties for those involved. Investigations into abnormal betting patterns and players placing bets on Italian games, often become complicated, long drawn out affairs. Past investigations have seen tens of players accused, but few dealt with satisfactorily. The overwhelming feeling is that such outcomes neither punish those involved, or deter others from committing similar crimes in future.

Links and Sources:

  • Beijing Times: Gong Jianping charged for taking bribes (Chinese)
  • Korea Times: Sports players involved in score manipulation
  • Times of India: China allows horse race gambling 60 years after Mao banned it

photo: lecercle

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