[FOUNTAIN]The kick of gambling

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[FOUNTAIN]The kick of gambling

With the World Cup approaching, gambling fever seems to be on the rise. In the countries that will take part in the World Cup, and in the countries that will only watch the matches, betting packages are being developed. The World Cup games are likely to bring about a world gambling festival. Companies that operate gambling Web sites are busy designing elaborate strategies to maximize their profits during the World Cup.

Perhaps the country where people's speculative spirit is being stimulated the most is Britain. That country's gamblers have designed betting packages not only on how many goals will be scored for the 2002 Korea/Japan World Cup games, but also on how many yellow and red cards will be handed out during the matches. Gamblers provided similar contests during the 1998 World Cup in France.

European countries are expected to increase the use of lotteries during the World Cup. More than $128 billion in lottery winnings were dispensed in 2000, and Europe accounted for nearly 50 percent of those winnings. After the currencies of European countries were integrated into the euro, people began to pay attention to whether the integration would promote the sale of lottery tickets during the 2002 World Cup.

The Asian soccer lottery market is about 16 trillion won ($12 billion). Chinese are especially interested in gambling. In the aftermath of industrialization and the opening of the communist society, such games as poker and mah-jongg have boomed. There have even been some Chinese who have bet their wives in a game. China plans to organize World Cup lotteries. It is uncertain whether a lottery will turn people away from illegal gambling. In Hong Kong, many people bet on which team will win ? just by watching soccer on television. In Thailand, where soccer and kickboxing are the most popular sports, a boom in betting is expected during the World Cup, even though the Thais are not competing in the matches. Various betting packages not only offer which team will win the cup, but which team will make, say, the first corner kick.

Lottery companies in the two host countries of the World Cup are actively marketing the matches. Accordingly, it is difficult to expect how much the world's betting market will increase. Every country has two faces. One face makes great profits by letting its national gambling business stimulate human speculative spirit, while the other face demands that people abstain from that speculation. Gambling should not be a game for life, but for entertainment purposes only.

The writer is a JoongAng Ilbo editorial writer.

by Choi Chul-joo

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