Euros Gambling Big Business in Burma

By The Irrawaddy 25 June 2012

RANGOON — England’s penalty heartbreak in Sunday’s Euro 2012 quarter-final may be tough for the side’s fans but has also had a dire effect in Burma where large sums of money were placed on a Three Lions victory.

The football-crazy Burmese has been following the current European Championships with zeal and a large number of fans have also been risking their family’s future by betting heavily on the tournament.

“I lost 50,000 kyat [US $60] on the England match last night,” a 27-year-old Shan waiter said on Monday. “I have to work a lot more now. Some of my friends bet too much and have to give up university and find a job. They still tell their parents that they study though.”

Local people in Rangoon claim record sums are being placed on Euro 2012 despite gambling being officially illegal in the country. Bookmakers either handle the stakes themselves for small amounts or offer slightly worse odds than illicit foreign Internet gambling sites for larger bets and pocket the difference.

“You can go to any teashop and find betting. Lots are open for the football and it is clear. People are betting all their money—even losing their houses over a game of football,” a 66-year-old Rangoon taxi driver and former navy officer told The Irrawaddy.

“I think England will win by one goal—not by much,” he said before Sunday’s match. “I called up to get the odds on the Portugal game but they were not so good, but I shall be betting on England.

“Even when it is not the European championship they are betting on the English Premier League, but now it is definitely worse.”

Despite casinos opening around Burma’s borders for foreigner gamblers, the authorities are keen to stamp out online gaming among the domestic population—a multimillion kyat business among the country’s better-off middle class.

“Sometimes children come and try to place bets but I won’t let them,” said a betel nut seller on Rangoon’s Strand Road. “Others might not be so kind though.”