BetFair continue to campaign for legalising betting in Asia
By abigail
Tim Levene, the MD of BetFair Asia, the UK based online betting exchange, has made more comments concerning the legalising of online betting in Asia. Currently internet gambling is still illegal in most countries in the Asian region, with Hong Kong being the only country where all forms of gambling are permissible. The industry is estimated to be worth US$100 billion a year, the majority of which is earned illegally- presently thought to be as much as 80percent.

Levene, who is actively looking to expand BetFair’s Asian interests has said of the issue: 'There is absolutely no doubt that the illegal market is a hundred thousand times bigger than the existing legal market. From a governmental point of view, and I think if you spoke to authorities, it is a nightmare to manage.'

Although there are indications that some Asian governments are becoming more open to legalising internet gambling, with Singapore and Thailand currently contemplating the development of land casinos, the changes in attitude are being gained slowly, and proving to be a point of frustration for much of the online gambling industry. Levene expressed such frustration at authorities who continue to resist the move to legalise the activity in their areas, despite the fact that the industry continues to grow without their legislative approval. He also commented that the problem for them to enforce illegal status will continue to increase with this growth: 'Just to get governments to talk about this is the greatest challenge.”

'If you could tell the government they need to have no expertise in sports betting, no expertise in technology, no massive investment and you could eradicate illegal gambling overnight, you would think most governments would take it right out of your hands. There are higher incidences of problem gambling in countries where there is little regulation. The longer you leave it unregulated, the more crime becomes a problem.”

Tom Hall, the president of the Asian division of Playtech, a gaming consultancy firm, has added to this public argument for legalisation, claiming that the legal stance is doing little to diminish the industry’s growth, and results in the governments losing out on lucrative revenue gains through taxation. As he pointed out illegal bookmakers can gain their licenses offshore from countries such as Antigua and Costa Rica, 'They don't have to live there to get a license. They have to set up their servers and computers and a small part of their staff in those countries, but most of the operations take place in their own countries.” Recently the rise in gambling that has been recorded in the Asia Pacific region during this year’s Euro championship supported the idea that making the betting practice illegal is doing nothing to inhibit both the popularity of the activity amongst the Asian population, and the flourishing number of illegal bookmakers ready to provide the service.

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