Beijing: Chinese police have uncovered a series of illegal World Cup betting cases involving almost USD 3 billion, media reported today, as authorities struggle to control the country`s growing gambling problem.
Betting is banned in China, except where it is run by the government or the proceeds donated to charity -- but outlawed operations, which usually offer more favourable odds, spike during the World Cup.
"The number of people arrested (during the tournament) was 108, and the cash involved totalled 18 billion yuan (USD 2.9 billion)," the Guangming Daily said, citing police, in a report which referred to an unspecified number of betting rings.
The sum is likely to be only a small fraction of what was gambled illegally during the tournament.
China failed to qualify for the World Cup in Brazil, but there is nonetheless huge interest in football betting.
Only a small portion of it goes to legal gambling through the state-sanctioned lotteries, but that element was still expected to total more than 10 billion yuan (USD 1.6 billion) on the tournament, which concluded yesterday when Germany defeated Argentina in the final.
Illegal betting in China usually takes place via outlawed websites, and can involve gamblers having to pay substantial "membership fees".
In May, police in Shanghai detained 63 people for being involved in an illegal online gambling operation that was alleged to have handled more than 113 billion yuan.