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World Cup Madness

The sports fans of the world get really pumped about the World Cup, and they bet millions of dollars, and pounds, and euros, and pesos, and colons on it.

World Cup Madness

Covering land-based casinos and online gaming in the U.S. is one thing. Covering gaming in the rest of the world is another experience altogether.

Incidentally, what’s with this “land-based casino” term? Don’t iGaming servers sit on land? I like the term “terrestrial casinos” even more. After all, we need to distinguish traditional gaming halls from the integrated resorts on Pluto’s moons.

But as usual, I digress.

Covering gaming in Europe, Asia and Australia inevitably means covering sports betting. (We do have a few U.S. states with sports betting, but Roger Goodell won’t let us have any more. Or is it Adam Silver?) And sports betting outside of North America means the FIFA World Cup—you know, that game we call soccer, but the rest of the world calls football.

(We’d call it football too, but Roger Goodell won’t let us.)

The sports fans of the world get really pumped about the World Cup, and they bet millions of dollars, and pounds, and euros, and pesos, and colons on it.

What, you never heard of El Salvador’s monetary units? They’re called colons. (The lower part of a Salvadoran’s intestinal tract is called a “dollar.”)

Because sports books around the world take in so many millions of colons’ worth of wagers on the World Cup, the tournament provides a huge payday for bookmakers. Making the wagering even more intense is the fact that it’s only a quadrennial tournament. (What’s more, it only happens every four years.) Some bookmakers get the wagering going by running expensive advertising campaigns.

Others just get a Jesus balloon.

Just before the World Cup got under way last month, people in Melbourne, Australia looked up in the skies and saw not a bird, not a plane, but the Savior Himself, in the form of a 46-meter, one-ton balloon replica of Rio’s Christ the Redeemer statue, wearing the Australian football team’s jersey and displaying the slogan “#Keep the Faith.”

The Twitter hashtag was there to invite comments on the social network, and, evidently, to show that Jesus has kept up with the times. But anyway, the immaculate conception of this stunt was pulled off by the gambling website Sportsbet, whose logo was also on the Savior’s football jersey.

According to a spokesman for Sportsbet, the “Keep the Faith” slogan was meant to convey, in a humorous, edgy kind of way, that Australia needed “some divine intervention to progress in the World Cup.”

“We wanted to make it loud and clear that we are backing the boys in Brazil,” the spokesman said, “and what better way to do so than with Australia’s largest-ever balloon floating above the Melbourne skyline?”

Remarkably, Christian church leaders in Australia were not amused by Inflatable Jesus. One minister condemned Sportsbet, saying, “Is nothing sacred?” Dealing the next morality card in the deck, the minister, Rev. Tim Costello, said, “If they knew anything about Jesus they’d know he’d be overturning tables in the gaming halls, because they’re highly addictive and destroy lives.”

Now, wait a minute. That’s going a bit far. For most of the world, gaming halls provide jobs, tax money for governments, and entertainment for patrons. Tell him, Inflatable Jesus.

Dr. Philip Freier, Anglican archbishop of Melbourne, also criticized the campaign, saying, “The campaign is hypocritical because the Jesus who overturned the money-changers’ tables in the Jerusalem Temple would not encourage betting. And it is incoherent, in claiming the (Australia) Socceroos are so inadequate that they need a miracle, but patrons should nevertheless bet on them.”

Come on, Bishop, didn’t you ever hear of a longshot?

In another pre-World Cup stunt, there was an “Elephant World Cup” put on by the government of Thailand, to discourage betting on the real tournament.

Real elephants were painted in the football colors of various nations and put in front of giant soccer balls. They didn’t know what to do. One elephant picked up the ball with his trunk, and after seven elephants tried to defend against a free kick, there was a giant mess on the field.

No word on whether it discouraged betting on the World Cup. Personally, I had Elephant No. 3 at 10-to-1.

By the way, at press time, the Australian football team, the Socceroos, had just lost to Chile, 3-1, and was preparing to play the Dutch team, which was fresh off a victory over the defending world champion, Spain.

I think they need a Lazarus balloon. As I write this, I’m a little nervous, because I have all my colons on the Socceroos to upset the Netherlands team.

Oh, well. At least they weren’t inflatable colons.

Frank Legato is editor of Global Gaming Business magazine. He has been writing on gaming topics since 1984, when he launched and served as editor of Casino Gaming magazine. Legato, a nationally recognized expert on slot machines, has served as editor and reporter for a variety of gaming publications, including Public Gaming, IGWB, Casino Journal, Casino Player, Strictly Slots and Atlantic City Insider. He has an B.A. in journalism and an M.A. in communications from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA. He is the author of the books, How To Win Millions Playing Slot Machines... Or Lose Trying, and Atlantic City: In Living Color.