My New Story on World Cup Gambling in Thailand

World Cup Gambling in Thailand

I’ve got a story in today’s IHT/Thai Day about illegal gambling surrounding the upcoming World Cup.

The first two grafs:

Sunton Tansiri represents the face of illegal football gambling in Thailand. Over coffee in his dimly-lit Ramkhamhaeng studio apartment, the 33-year-old punter explains that he and all his friends plan to wager extensively on the World Cup football games. “Everyone will bet more during the World Cup,” he says, a smile enveloping his round face. “The games will be on all the channels. Every match will be on TV every day.”

Sunton and his pals are not alone: gambling on football – what some call Thailand’s new national pastime – is about to explode with the kickoff of the World Cup on Friday. A recent ABAC poll found that over 850,000 Bangkok residents would collectively be wagering some 2.14 billion baht on the tournament. A separate Assumption University opinion survey that examined the country as a whole determined that about three million Thais planned to wager on the matches, with 14 billion baht expected to change hands.

I’ve also got another piece in today’s paper about which teams are most likely to win the World Cup. Sadly, it’s not available online, but here’s how I begin:

Just four teams have been finalists in six of the last seven World Cups: Brazil, Germany, Italy, and Argentina. Will the squad that lifts the trophy in Berlin on July 9 be among these traditional heavyweights? Or will this tournament belong to the likes of England, France, the Netherlands, or Mexico?

Which Cinderella squads will make memorable runs? Could this year’s dark-horse teams hail from the Ivory Coast, Ecuador, Ukraine, or maybe even Togo? The issue of upstart outsiders, of course, may prove moot in the end. For the emerging forecast for 2006 World Cup Germany amounts to this: world champion Brazil, a scintillating footballing machine fueled by a roster jam-packed with some of the beautiful game’s most luminous stars, may simply prove unstoppable.

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