|Hong Kong gamblers finally got to place their first legal bets on soccer Friday, as the Chinese territory launched a new betting operation aimed at raising tax revenues and cutting out illegal bookmakers. |
The Hong Kong Jockey Club's chairman, Ronald Arculli, was first in line, making two bets of HK$50 (US$6.40) each on a draw between the German Bundesliga’s Bayern Munich and Frankfurt.
Arculli dismissed concerns from religious and youth groups that soccer betting will lead to social problems in Hong Kong. Hong Kong is already a hotbed of gambling, but gamblers had previously been limited to betting legally only on horse races and a numbers-game lottery.
'Soccer betting is a healthy pursuit, provided you take it as a form of entertainment,' Arculli told reporters as the betting began at noon. Arculli placed one bet on any draw in the Bayern Munich-Frankfurt match, at odds of 4.6-1, and another bet on a 2-2 draw, carrying odds of 27-1.
Officials predict wagers of HK$30 billion (US$3.8 billion) in the first year.
Jockey Club spokesman Li Tak-nang said more than 10,000 people have applied since last week for new accounts to place soccer bets by telephone and over the Internet. The nonprofit Jockey Club also operates the horse races and lottery and gives its proceeds to public causes.
Previously, many Hong Kong gamblers hungry for action had traveled to the nearby SAR (Semi Autonomous Region) of Macau, famous for its casinos.