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Macau sports gaming firm shows its Olympic spirit

Aug. 08, 2008, 4:15 a.m. (ET)

HONG KONG (AP) The popular Chinese gambling enclave of Macau opened its own Olympic games Friday as the territory's sports-book company began accepting bets on soccer and basketball events to be held in coming weeks.

Wagers of HK$10 (about US$1.30) or more began rolling in through a Web site and various betting centers in Macau, said Helen Poon, marketing manager for the company, Macau Slots.

The initial response was strong, Poon said, though she wouldn't release any figures. Opening ceremonies for the 2008 Summer Games were scheduled Friday evening in Beijing.

"We are Chinese and we have to support the games," Poon said. "It's more fun to watch the games while you place bets, it's more exciting."

As for odds, the hands-down favorite in men's basketball was the U.S. team, filled with professional NBA stars such as LeBron James and Kobe Bryant. The Americans and Australians were front-runners in women's basketball.

In soccer, gamblers could take their chances with various bets on scores and point spreads.

A spokeswoman for the International Olympic Committee had no immediate comment about the company's Olympic sports-book or legal betting on the Olympics in general. However, she said the committee works to prevent and detect betting-related corruption in the games.

Macau Slots, a subsidiary of casino mogul Stanley Ho's flagship company, Sociedade de Jogos de Macau, offers China's only legal, fixed-odds betting on Olympic events. Except for lotteries, gambling is outlawed in mainland China.

Macau, a former Portuguese colony, surpassed the Las Vegas Strip as the world's top gambling center in 2006. Last year, its casinos took in US$10.3 billion, according to the government.

Sports betting is still relatively small, accounting for less than 1 percent of the territory's gaming revenues last year.

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On the Net: www.macau-slot.com

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