The 2016 Euro Football Championships has spurred a massive betting craze across Asia as thousands of football fans in China, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand have joined illegal gambling groups to place wagers and see if they can make some quick money. The Euro 2016 tournament has currently reached the semi-final stage and the betting stakes are growing at an incredible pace.

The popularity of football has grown tremendously in China over the past few years as a number of Chinese based companies have invested heavily into the English Premier League (EPL) buying stakes in some of the most popular EPL teams, sponsoring team kits and jerseys. Chinese football clubs have also succeeded in paying huge money to a number of international stars and getting them to play in China.

There have been reports that a number of Chinese gamblers have taken to popular mobile apps such as Tencent Holdings Ltd’s WeChat app where there are a number of gambling groups betting on Euro 2016. The members place high value bets on the outcome of each match, the half-time scoreline, full-time scoreline and then end up getting paid via Alipay which is a part of the Alibaba group, WeChat or via red packets which are digital wallets that are filled with cash.

The authorities in Guangdong claimed to have arrested 147 people involved in illegal betting and froze funds that were estimated to be around $15 million. The Public Security Ministry stated on July 3 that it had arrested 236 individuals spread across four provinces in the country who were part of an illegal betting on the Euro 2016 championship.

The number of illegal bets and the value of each bet are expected to increase during this week as the two semi-finals and finals are scheduled to take place. A key member of an online gambling group who prefers to be known as Mr. Bao has stated that he along with four other organizers had set up a Euro 2016 pot that is now around $750,000 and expected hundreds of Chinese to send in their wagers for the remaining matches.

In a statement, Mr. Bao said “In one night there will be millions placed in bets. For the final, we’ll probably go to Macau or Hong Kong and spend the whole week in the presidential suite.”

TenCent and Alibaba stated that they were aware that their digital platforms were being used for illegal betting on the Euro 2016 championship and stated that they were taking steps to crackdown on these groups. TenCent confirmed that it had imposed restrictions on 8,000 groups in WeChat and has restricted payment and ‘red packet’ facilities on an additional 6,000 individual WeChat accounts.

 

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