Sick gambling websites have sprung up offering punters who used to bet on now suspended football matches the opportunity to bet on the daily COVID-19 statistics instead.
The sites encourage gamblers to bet on the statistics before they are updated each day in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia.
Gamblers can also bet on numerous ways including attempted against the last digits or whether the number is even or odd, and whether the figures are higher in the respective countries than the previous day.
Singapore tabloid ‘The New Paper’ said they discovered at least five sites with similar COVID-19 betting options.
The paper reported that instead of betting on football matches which were no longer taking place, they had switched over to what appeared to be the only game in town.
The paper wrote: “The daily odds and results are displayed with other sports betting options and appear to have taken on more prominence than football betting, the usual mainstay of such sites.”
But this was no surprise to experts in addiction who said gamblers needed to get their fix regardless of what they were betting about.
Dr Adrian Wang, a psychiatrist at Gleneagles Medical Centre, said: “The act of gambling triggers pleasure centres in the brain, releasing neurochemicals that give them a sense of reward and satisfaction.
“They need this regular fix. Like an alcoholic who suddenly finds himself unable to afford whisky and has to settle for cheap rice wine, problem gamblers who can’t bet in the casino or on suspended football games will take what’s available.”
The move to the online betting world has also been boosted by the fact that legal betting outlets and casinos were suspended due to the pandemic. The lockdown measures have also reportedly led to people turning to online gambling sites.
A study by the analytics group AlphaBeta in Australia found that online betting had surged by over 65 percent to the previous month.
Online gambling is regulated in Singapore and a police spokesperson told local media: “We are aware of betting activities relating to the number of daily COVID-19 cases and are looking into the matter.”
According to local media, anyone caught using an illegal online gambling service can be fined up to 5,000 SGD (2,805 GBP), sentenced to six months in prison, or both.
Anyone caught providing an illegal gambling service in Singapore or overseas can be fined up to 200,000 SGD (112,195 GBP), sentenced to up to five years in jail, or both.
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