Students hooked on World Cup betting
Students are becoming more and more savvy about the mechanics of bookmaking. -The Star/ANN
You know you have a gambling problem when your neighbourhood World Cup bookie is a 21-year-old female college student.
It's not a sexist thing, but normally, one would imagine bookies to be shady characters or guys you meet in dimly-lit rooms enveloped in cigarette smoke while his runners play pool in the background.
Well, that's not the case anymore.
Times are a-changing. Germany are playing attacking football, Brazil are playing defence, the American president is black, we can use the word "black" again, and your college bookie today could be the girl sitting next to you in class studying for a law degree and worrying about her flagging GPA.
At least, that's how it is for 23-year-old college student Jim.
His bookie is not exactly a law student, and doesn't really care about her grades, but she is a regular college student. For the past three weeks, she has been taking bets from Jim and his friends for the World Cup.
"I wanted to bet on the World Cup, so my friend introduced us. I've won close to 2,000 ringgit (S$865) from betting through her," says Jim.
Unfortunately, that has become a rather common scenario in local Malaysian colleges and universities during this World Cup. Not the winning, but the amateur bookmaking.
Students have been acting as ad hoc bookies to set up bets between their friends, and earning a bit of extra cash along the way.
"If you play smart, you can earn good money as a bookie," notes Jim. "As the World Cup progresses, most students will already know who among them are bookies and how to get in touch with them. It's all through word-of-mouth."
Jacob, 26, a university student who set up his first bet during the last World Cup four years ago, says: "It's easy (to find a bookie in college). Just ask around and you'll find someone who is either willing to be a bookie, or already knows one. Every class will surely have at least one or two these days."
Last week's Sunday Star cover story was on how rampant World Cup betting has become in colleges/universities in Malaysia, so much so that big-time bookies were even recruiting student runners just to work the field among their peers.
But students are becoming more and more savvy about the mechanics of bookmaking, and that's one of the reasons why some of them don't even need the professional bookies and their runners; they're simply becoming their own bookies.
All you need is to get the odds from a betting website, find a few friends who are willing to pay a small commission to bet with you, and you are in business.
Jacob says that there is a relatively risk-free way of becoming a bookie.
"Basically, all you need to do is find an equal number of people to bet on two opposing teams. That way there is no risk of losing for the bookie, and you earn money by charging a commission, which can go up to RM10 per bet.
"That's what I did four years ago. A few of my friends were supporting one team, and a few were supporting another. So I set up the bet for them and earned between RM300 and RM400 without risking anything," he says. But that's just the safe way of doing it.
Bookies could win much more than their commission if they don't just stick with even bets.
The bookies can determine the odds and the number of bets he/she accepts. Usually they would follow the odds on the Internet, but they can set any odds they want and the person betting can either take it or leave it.
So, the odds are naturally in favour of the bookies - but only if they knew what they were doing.
"Bookies have to do their homework. They need to check the odds and determine what bets are worth taking, research the team's form over the last few games or see if any players are injured.
"If you are willing to take the risk by taking bets on unlikely results, or an uneven number of bets, then you could be winning big money," adds Jacob, who currently bets online and through friends who have contacts with big-time bookies.
Another popular way of betting in colleges now is through students who have accounts with sports betting websites.
These students basically use their accounts to make bets on behalf of their friends. Jim has been betting through a friend using this method.
"There's usually a maximum betting limit with these websites. For some of the big matches, the friend I bet through received so many bets that he reached his limit. When that happens, we just find someone else who hasn't maxed-out his credit yet and we bet through them," reveals Jim, adding that unless it's a really big game, you would usually be able to find someone who was willing to take your money.
According to Lim, 23, a lot of the account olders don't just take bets on the World Cup, but on club football matches as well, especially the English Premier League.
"The person I bet with has a credit limit of 5,000 ringgit, but I started small, betting around 100 ringgit per game. I only increased my bets after I had some winnings. They don't bank in the money to your account immediately anyway, so you can just 'reinvest' the money in bigger bets," says Lim.
By now, Lim has won enough to bet up to 500 ringgit a game, and he estimates that he has earned a few thousand ringgit by now. He concedes that the website with which he bets on through his friend is "probably illegal", but does not seem too concerned that none of his winnings have been banked into his account yet.
With these betting websites so easily available now, the bookies have actually become almost redundant.
There really isn't anything stopping students from signing up for an account themselves with the betting websites. Jacob, for one, prefers to gamble online by himself.
"They're really cool actually. The website I use looks very snazzy. You get to make bets throughout the game. The site will keep updating you with new bets, which gives you a chance to recoup any losses," he says.
Some of Jacob's professional bookies are already going online with their own websites, which makes it even easier for students to get their own accounts and start taking bets from their friends.
Jim says most students would still prefer to bet through a friend with an account, rather than register themselves.
For one, Jim says there are some risks with betting online, because you might be asked to divulge information like your bank account number to a website that is probably not completely legit.
The main reason, however, is that students still find betting together more fun. Why sit alone facing your computer during a game, when you can go out and watch the match with a bunch of friends who all have a stake in the game?
"Most of my classmates aren't serious gamblers anyway. Some of them are betting just because it's once every four years, and they want to get in with all the excitement. It makes the games more interesting.
"Even the girls in my class are betting. Quite a few of them don't know a single thing about football, but they still bet for the fun of it," says Jim.
Jacob adds: "I guess there's still this old school feeling of meeting up with a bookie, or designating a friend to be the bookie, and betting together. Then you can hang out and chat about the game, taunt each other, and things like that."
It might sound like all fun and games now that the World Cup is in full swing, but Jim says students need to practice self-control and make sure it doesn't become a habit after the final on July 11.
Most of the student bookies will probably stop taking bets, and the students themselves will probably stop betting too, since most of them aren't really football fans anyway.
But if you still feel like betting on future matches, then you will probably have to look for a proper bookie, and those guys won't be like Jim's 21-year-old female collegemate, they will be the shady guys in smokey rooms that you don't want to mess with.
(** All names have been changed.)
-The Star/Asia News Network
|Privacy Statement Conditions of Access Advertise|