Although the Chinese team may not have made it into the 2014 world cup, the football fanatics of China are more keen than ever to get involved in the games merriment thanks to the internet superpowers, Alibaba and Tencent, who are turning football into a language almost everyone understands: money.
Although gambling is illegal across most of the mainland, the government does allow provinces to operate “official lotteries”, the proceeds of which go to charity, and it looks like the constantly competing companies have both curve-balled the fundamentals to bring the most addictive type of lottery to the nation. WSJ reports:
This year those lotteries are getting a shot in the arm from China’s large Internet companies, including Alibaba and rival Tencent Holdings, which make it easier for soccer watchers to bet via a smartphone or computer. The two companies have partnered with provincial lottery centers in China to enable users to place money on the games despite China’s antigambling laws
As of Sunday, Chinese bets on the World Cup totaled four billion yuan ($642 million), close to double the total 2.3 billion yuan in bets during the tournament in 2010, according to China’s state-run lottery regulator.
The market for this type of gambling is huge in China at the moment. Only a few days ago police busted a huge gambling ring in Macau, Hong Kong, that reportedly saw some 5 million HKD put down in bets in one week. Though the companies are giving the people what they want so to speak, they are also arguably promoting social schizophrenia in the form of gambling addiction.
These commerce giants have massive reach through Tencent’s WeChat and Alibaba’s Taobao. The BBC reported, “Around 85% of Chinese are now interested in buying goods and services through their mobile phone – three or four years ago, it was 30%,” says Andrew Pitcher, a senior vice-president with SAP Asia Pacific Japan, a software firm.
Cherry Tao, a 30-year-old public-relations worker from Shanghai, said she had never bet in the official lottery until this year, when she purchased a ticket on Alibaba’s Taobao e-commerce site, which promotes the World Cup lottery on its front page. Taobao, which operates as an e-commerce platform, links users with authorized sports and lottery gambling centers affiliated with the country’s General Administration of Sport.
“Paying via Taobao’s smartphone application is handy and I feel myself more involved in the game” said Ms. Tao, who has followed soccer for 16 years. She added, “I definitely wouldn’t go line up at a lottery kiosk” said Ms. Tao.
Oh no, see the gabling epidemic spread. At least the charities will get large cash injection when the rest of China’s spent out.
By Sophie Regan