As the championship match for the 2018 FIFA World Cup approaches, passionate and casual sports fans alike are picking who they think will win the tournament. While many people participate in friendly bracket competitions with friends and coworkers, the people who are busiest this week are those in the sports betting (体育赌博，tǐyù dǔbó) industry.
Over 700 billion USD is spent each year betting on sports, 70% of which is placed on football matches. Needless to say, the World Cup is a major event in the gambling world. With China's long history of casual betting on everything from mahjong (麻将, májiàng) to cricket fights, it's no surprise that China also has the most sports betting activity in the world. And with an estimated 800 million people watching the World Cup, China will probably place the most bets on this global football tournament.
Sports betting is legal in China and is managed by the state-run lottery companies, China Sports Lottery (体育彩票，tǐcǎi) and Welfare Lottery (福利彩票，fúlì cǎipiào). Together, these two betting outfits make more money than every casino in a single country combined. There are other games at the state-run lotteries such as instant scratch, rapid draw (keno), and virtual lottery terminals (like slot machines) but the sports betting or "sporttery" is a big draw for people. Chinese gamblers can place bets on a small range of sports in China, Europe and the USA including football, basketball, and baseball. In addition to physical store fronts throughout the country, people can also place bets online.
Although legal (合法，héfǎ) sports betting in China generates hundreds of billions of RMB each year, illegal (非法，fēifǎ) gambling is still a major problem worldwide. Estimates claim as much as 85% of Chinese sports betting is done illegally. Besides gambling, the Chinese sports industry has an unfortunate reputation for other related illegal activity, such as match fixing in order to make more money on bets and general corruption on sports teams and within their administration. Chinese and international law enforcement agencies regularly collaborate in order to stop illegal activity and maintain integrity in both the Chinese and global sports industries. In the last 10 years, gambling arrests have decreased significantly from millions per year to just a few hundred thousand, evidence of the continued success in eliminating major illegal activity.
Wherever you are in the world, this week, as you make your pick for who will win the World Cup tournament, be sure to check your local laws and resources for in-person and online sports gambling and place your bet legally. No matter who you support and who wins, join more than 1 billion people from all over the world in watching the biggest event in sports gambling.