The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Bets peak on Berlin
- Regulars apart, first-timers also eye quick returns from Cup

Go slow on the bourses, be quick on the ball ' that's the latest money mantra this month. As flip-flops in the financial markets here continue and the soccer fever in Berlin peaks, the World Cup betting kitty in Calcutta swells.

'The World Cup comes once every four years and many first-timers also try their hand at betting, apart from the regulars who eye quick returns through the soccer month,' says a Burrabazar bookie, handling bets worth crores on any given match day.

'Speculators have to place bets. At a time when the markets are bearish, placing bets on World Cup football is an attractive option,' explains a speculator, who dabbles daily in Dalal Street but has switched flanks this soccer season.

Soccer is not only scoring over stocks, it has taken the sheen off cricket, too.

Anybody who dialled B to bet on India ' during the fourth test between Team India and West Indies in Kingston ' was advised to pick Brazil or France, instead.

From young traders, big and small, to college-goers, many are trying to cash in on the FIFA fever. Though all are welcome to place bets, big business comes from seasoned players who have both cash and courage to gamble big.

'The betting starts with a minimum amount of Rs 5,000 and can run into lakhs. In football, the results are quick and in case of a loss, one can make up for it in the very next match. That creates more excitement,' says a bookie from Howrah, who handled bets worth more than Rs 7 crore for the France vs Brazil battle.

The law-keepers are aware of the brisk betting business in town but there is little they can do to book the bookmakers.

'The betting stakes are very high in Calcutta. As soon as we get to know about it happening anywhere, we immediately crack down. With the World Cup in full swing, we are maintaining a very strict vigil,' said Gyanwant Singh, deputy commissioner (detective department).

But the word-of-mouth operation keeps the betting players one step ahead of the cops.

Every small bookie is linked to a bigger bookie ' in most cases the big fish conducts business from Mumbai ' as protection, if betters start winning hands down.

'We always give two odds for one particular scenario, which means that on one odd the player is challenging us and on the other we are challenging the player. Whoever predicts right is the winner,' says an all-season bookie, explaining the rules of the game.

Traditionally, football betting is done on three possible outcomes: win, loss and draw.

But to spice things up, bookies give odds for various other scenarios, like the score-line in the first 45 or 75 minutes, number of yellow cards shown during a match and semi-final line-up.

With traditional Calcutta favourites Brazil and Argentina knocked out of the tournament, World Cup 2006 has not been a happy hunting ground for speculators in the city.

'People have lost huge sums of money and they will try to recover something from the final stages of the tournament. We are expecting much higher volumes for the final,' predicts a bookie.

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