All bets off in soccer gambling row

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 31 July, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 31 July, 2011, 12:00am


As Chelsea beat Aston Villa 2-0 to lift the Barclays Asia Trophy last night at Hong Kong Stadium, a row broke out between Hong Kong Jockey Club chief executive Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges and the government over a ban on betting on the match.

Engelbrecht-Bresges, who is on holiday in Cannes, last night said his vacation had been 'seriously spoiled' by the Home Affairs Bureau's decision not to allow bets on the all-English Premier League clash because it was part of a tournament in which a Hong Kong team played.

'The world, from Churchtown to London, is betting on it. I understand from my colleagues that more than 130 overseas bookies, including most major offshore and online bookmakers in this region, opened betting pools, but not the Jockey Club and the game is being played in a stadium we built,' Engelbrecht-Bresges said.

He said the club had applied to the bureau last week to open local betting pools for last night's final between the two Premier League teams.

'Clearly, neither of the two reasons why we cannot normally offer betting on matches involving Hong Kong teams - namely integrity concerns and insufficient public interest - are applicable.

'However, regrettably and to my great disappointment, the Jockey Club was asked to seek special approval from the bureau for taking bets on the match between Chelsea and Aston Villa. To me, it is a way of creating a change in the licensing conditions by restricting football betting to the entire tournament instead of the individual matches which a Hong Kong team will participate in.'

A government spokesman said no betting was allowed without government approval for matches involving a Hong Kong team and that matches meant the whole tournament.

Engelbrecht-Bresges said he could understand not allowing bets on Hong Kong team Kitchee's tournament matches as it would create a precedent, but not a total ban.

'If one would apply this logic every time a Hong Kong team plays in a tournament ... it would mean we could not even bet on the World Cup as a Hong Kong team [played] in the qualifying matches,' he said.