Moulmein -- With the whole world watching the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, many people in Mon State have decided to try their luck at gambling - a centuries old habit and diversion in Asia that is hard to break.

Kaowao has learned that the local authorities - as they do whenever there is a chance to score some extra cash - turn a blind eye to illegal gambling during the World Cup series even though such activities are illegal in Burma.

A resident of Myaing Thayar, Moulmein says, “Millions of Kyat (Burmese currency) in bets have been made on the World Cup Soccer in Myaing Thayar Auk Kyin.  He adds that many really enjoy just watching the game, but many will also risk losing their life's savings by joining a gambling party.”

One gambling organizer who spoke under condition of anonymity claimed to a Kaowao reporter that when he takes over ten million Kyats he will transfer it to Rangoon, but will take some commission fee.

Gambling enthusiasts are not only the older men, but also young students.  Million of Kyats were gambled away in Moulmein, Mudon, Thanbyu Zayat, and Ye Townships. According to a Moulmein University student, they bet on different categories; such as by the team, number of goals, and cards (yellow, red).

A Mon community leader from Durae says, “Our villages have very little entertainment so when the World Cup arrives we enjoy betting on the matches with a small amount of money.  The farming economy these days is suffering due to the late monsoon which has affected many farmers' livelihood and they don’t have enough money, so will try their luck at gambling by risking a little to score big.

The Burma soccer team was once famous in Southeast Asia, but military rule stifled growth of the much-loved sport that needs strong community involvement and sponsorship. Burma back in the 1960s and early 1970s was part of a professional league winning two Asian Games championships in 1966 and 1970, four Southeast Asian Peninsular Games titles and numerous other soccer awards.