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China web firms find ways to profit from World Cup gambling craze

BEIJING--China's Internet giants and insurance companies are finding ever more innovative ways to get around the country's strict betting laws and reap a payout as fans wager billions on the World Cup.

Gambling is banned in China, except where it is run by the government or the proceeds donated to charity, but technology behemoths Alibaba and Tencent have this year linked up with state-owned provincial lotteries to enable punters to bet on the World Cup online.

Both have smartphone gambling apps which have proved hugely popular during the Brazil tournament, and on which more than 10 billion yuan (US$1.6 billion) is expected to be bet legally — dwarfing the 2.3 billion yuan figure reached at the 2010 finals in South Africa. Many times more will be spent illegally.

“I find it so much easier to bet on an app, rather than having to go to a lottery center,” said Li Qiang, from Shanghai, who said he won 200 yuan when Uruguay beat Italy in the group stage.

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