Asian sports lotteries cash in on World Cup betting boom

china-sports-lottery-world-cupChina’s sports lottery business is enjoying the expected boom from the kickoff of the 2014 FIFA World Cup. On Friday, the National Sports Lottery Management Center reported that the first day of World Cup wagering had brought in over RMB 150m (US $24.1m) in sales. That’s a nearly five-fold bump over the RMB 22m recorded on the first day of the 2010 World Cup, reflecting the intervening years’ expansion of online wagering as well as the range of betting types available to sports lottery bettors.

Tradition has it that China’s overall lottery business – sports and welfare lotteries combined – experiences growth of 25% to 30% in World Cup years. Online lottery sales rose nearly 63% last year to RMB 42b and expectations are that online sales will top RMB 60b when 2014’s final figures are in. About one-fifth of last year’s online sales were made via mobile devices.

On Friday, China’s Ministry of Finance reported total lottery sales rose 12.6% in May to RMB 30.8b ($5b). Welfare lottery sales were up 16.2% to RMB 17.65b while sports lottery sales rose 8.2% to RMB 13.15b. Through the first five months of 2014, total sales are up 13.9% to RMB 142.4b. The China Center for Lottery Studies at Peking University has estimated the illegal sports betting market is worth around $97b per year, 15 times the sums wagered with the official lottery channels.

Meanwhile, Singapore’s betting monopoly operator Singapore Pools has teamed with leading telecom outfit SingTel to offer free public screenings of World Cup matches at 40 community clubs across the city-state. Singapore Pools is undoubtedly hoping the resulting goodwill can generate a similar boost in its World Cup wagering, but their attention to detail leaves something to be desired. A glance at their website reveals the Irish flag among the mosaic of nationalities on the site’s World Cup pages, which is more than a little odd, given that Ireland didn’t actually qualify for the tourney. (Have those Paddy Power pranksters hacked the site?)

Finally, China Netcom Technology subsidiary Shenzhen Huancai Puda Technology Company Ltd. announced last week it had entered into a contract to supply the Hainan Provincial Sports Lottery Administration Center with video lottery terminals. China’s Ministry of Finance has yet to officially approve the use of such terminals but speculation has it that Hainan is being used as a laboratory to determine the impact of VLTs before their introduction on the mainland is permitted.