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Asia Buzzing With World Cup Fever


Soccer crazy Asia is getting ready for the World Cup, which is kicking off in Germany. Retailers, bar owners and gambling outlets are ready for the action.

Many people in Asia will go to work bleary-eyed in the coming weeks. Due to the time difference, most matches of the soccer World Cup championships will be aired late at night for most of Asia.

Only two Asian countries - South Korea and Japan - have qualified for the World Cup but much of the rest of the region still is buzzing with football fever.

Hundreds of millions of fans in Asia are expected to watch the games in front of TV screens at home, in bars and restaurants and even on sets on the sidewalks. Workers in bars are ready for the big matches, which take place during the next month.

This bar manager in Beijing says they will have lucky draws, betting games, and girls dressed up in sexy football outfits. He says the bar will also hand out whistles and give jerseys to those who consume the most alcohol.

Retailers and manufacturers across the region hope to cash in on the World Cup craze. Fans are not only buying jerseys of their favorite teams and cheap World Cup accessories, but also expensive items such as flat-screen televisions for watching the action at home.

Junko Fujii is a spokeswoman for the Japanese market research firm Dentsu. The company estimates the World Cup will boost consumer spending in Japan by about $4 billion in the coming weeks.

"People will be buying thin screen TVs and also DVD recorders, personal computers and also many people will be newly subscribing to cable and satellite services," she said. " Also - it would rather depend on how good the Japanese team will be doing but if they are doing really well, people will be partying out - eating and drinking will also go up."

Betting on football results will also be big business during the month-long event. Only a few places in Asia, such as Hong Kong and Singapore, have legal betting agencies for football gambling. Many gamblers are expected to place bets with illegal bookmakers, who are often connected to organized crime syndicates.

Legal operators have taken countermeasures. Ho Whei Chern, spokeswoman for Singapore's lottery operator Pools, says the agency is offering pre-paid cards to customers to stop them from turning to illegal operators during the World Cup.

"This is actually a betting account by the phone so when customers watch soccer during the late-night matches," she explained. "Customers can call through the phone any time to place a bet."

The Hong Kong police have set up a special task force to combat illegal betting during the World Cup. And law enforcement agencies in other countries, such as Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Cambodia will be on their toes, looking for illegal wagers throughout the month.