The 2010 World Cup has caused a huge surge in sports betting around the world. In places like Malaysia, where sports betting is technically not allowed, bookies have been working hard to stay one step ahead. One move being taken by online sportsbooks in Malaysia is to recruit students, and get them to solicit bets from their classmates. The move is proving to be very effective from the point of view of the bookies, but is understandably causing many to become concerned.
Bookies recruit student runners who then approach their schoolmates and encourage them to bet on World Cup football matches and other popular sporting events. The runners collect bets and pass them on to the bookies, taking a cut of 1-3% for their work. Usually bets are made in person, but some syndicates also have the runners direct bettors to online sportsbooks to place their wagers. Since the start of the World Cup, some of these student runners are taking in as much as RM 1,000 (about $300) every day.
Some of these student runners are also acting as loan sharks, providing quick cash for students who don’t have the money to place wagers.
This targeting of students has led to a dramatic increase in the number of young people who bet on sports in Malaysia – one estimate says as much as 20% of all secondary school students in the country have placed bets online.
One student, a 17-year-old in Kluang, Johor, has already racked up a debt of RM 14,000 ($2000) with bookies since the start of the 2010 World Cup.
Lee Kim Shin, a committee member of a local organization dedicated to helping problem gamblers, says that this tactic of targeting students is not new, and that bookies have been going after students for as many as 20 years. It has only been in the last few years, however, that bookies direct the teens towards internet betting in Malaysia.