China to grant sports betting licenses for World Cup, crackdown on illegals

    China is expected to issue its first online sports betting licenses in time for the World Cup, scheduled to kick off in Brazil later this month, but at the same time is cracking down on illegal betting activities, local media said. The first licenses are likely to go to those already operating with the Finance Ministry’s approval under a pilot scheme. Shares in 500.com, one of the companies involved in the trial, gained 2.5 percent in New York Stock Exchange trading Tuesday.
    China’s two state sanctioned lotteries, the Welfare Lottery and the Sports Lottery, have seen rapid growth, with the market rising to a combined RMB309 billion ($49 billion) last year, implying an annual growth rate of approximately 18 percent.
    However, the penetration rate remains extremely low by international standards and estimates put the illegal market at some 10-20 times that of the legal business, suggesting huge growth potential.
    However, Chinese authorities have teamed up with those in Hong Kong and Macau to clamp down on illegal sports betting as the World Cup looms.
    A special team will monitor the internet including websites known to be involved in gaming.
    The three cross-border forces have also agreed to strengthen information exchanges and to help each other in enforcing the law.