Cricket World Cup betting: Bookies weigh up odds as contest gets under way
KARACHI, Feb 19: Though Pakistan missed the opportunity to co-host the 10th edition of the World Cup on security grounds, the thrill of the biggest cricketing event of the globe is still alive for Hussain and his seven friends –– they indulge in betting.
As the 14-nation event kicked off in Dhaka on Saturday with the opening clash between India and Bangladesh, the bookmaker and his punters have no hesitation in putting their money on the favourite Dhoni-eleven.
They say they will bet for Pakistan only when the 1992 Cricket World Cup winners walk into the field to bat first.
“This World Cup we don’t enjoy bowling options in the absence of Aamir and Asif [two of the troika convicted of spot-fixing by an anti-corruption tribunal of the International Cricket Council] but record suggests Pakistan seem more comfortable in defending the target rather than chasing it,” he says. “In betting, hunch works more than records and statistics. So it’s our hunch that Pakistan will win if they bat first.”
With millions glued to the television screens, relishing every moment of the Cricket World Cup jointly hosted by India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, hundreds of Karachiites may spend these hours over the cellphones, luring enthusiasts across the city into playing satta (betting). This obsession runs for more than a month, parallel to the cricketing events.
Enjoying clientele from the common man to industrialists and jewellers to stock brokers, the bookmakers are set to see millions of rupees change hands everyday. Though illegal, betting remains the business that rakes in higher returns than any other business during the Cricket World Cup.
“There are many ways to bet, but in India and Pakistan three ways are common –– fancy, lamby and win,” says Hussain. “In fancy, people put money on sets of overs while lamby is played for an entire innings. For win, you need to pick one of the two contesting teams in a match to bet on.”
He says deals are done over the phone and no money is exchanged till the result of the match is clear.
“This style of settling deals is referred to as valan in betting parlance. Those who enjoy good reputation are given a few days for these settlements,” he says.
The trust-based business is generally believed to enjoy links with police authorities that hardly take it as a serious crime. With the south zone of the police organisational structure hosting hotspots for the bookies, generally each of them has a minimum of 50 and, a maximum of 300, punters placing bets through him.
In response to Dawn queries, DIG South Iqbal Mehmood does not say that the thriving betting business does not exist but sounds powerless to track it down.
“It’s in fact very difficult to trace people behind such activities,” he says.
“They operate mainly on cellphone or wireless technologies. Still we raid their places acting on tip-offs and sometimes bust such groups.” While the police fail to make any impact on the cricket betting business, capital markets and other businesses are hugely affected by it.
“Definitely, when such a huge amount is involved in any kind of activity, it leaves its impact on other businesses in one way or another,” said Khurram Shahzad, the head of research at the Invest Cap, and a top market analyst.
“One can’t trace it, but yes, during the World Cup, you may witness such a trickle-down effect on stock market volumes or capital. It may be either way: if people lose, they would withdraw their capital from the regular market and if win they would invest more into it.”
Despite being considered a serious crime, it appears that the undercover betting industry’s tentacles reach every legitimate business. Business leaders admit it goes on even within the club of multimillionaire businessmen but believe it has nothing to do with the routine trading activity.
“In the whole of this business (betting), normally black money is put to use,” says Saeed Shafiq, the president of the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI). “So it’s not going
to affect regular business
activities in any market;
it leaves several questions unanswered on part of the law-enforcers, who are apparently unable to trace such an organised game. Rather, they ignore it, probably for having their own stakes in it.”
However, the game, as the KCCI chief terms it, is no more fun for Hussain and his friends. They take it as a business and the cricket world cup appears to be the time they have been eagerly waiting for.
“A number of people are associated with this activity throughout the year. It’s their occupation, business or profession, call it whatever you will. As the Eid season brings boom for hundreds of traders across the city, the cricket world cup or other major sporting events brings a windfall for the bookies,” he says