People Are Betting Thousands On Illegal Cricket Fighting In China
You'd think gamblers would have enough options open to them for a flutter these days, with online betting making it a lot easier to win (or, let's be honest, lose) money fast. But apparently not, as some people are turning to cricket fights to get their betting fix.
Yup, cricket fights - as in those little insects, in a 'ring', fighting.
Cricket fighting dates back to the Tang dynasty - way back in 618 AD - and is still pretty popular in China today.
And when I say pretty popular, I mean folks are willing to bet tens of thousands of dollars on the outcome of these 'fights'.
Like any other 'sport', though, cricket fighting isn't immune to a rogue element and earlier this week, police made two arrests after busting an 'underground casino' where three men were accused of illegally 'organising cricket fighting'.
A report in the New York Post claims that in just one short week, around 300 people attended the fights and $140,000 (£109,500) was bet on the little creatures.
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The sport, if you can call it that, was banned during the cultural revolution in the 1960s - however, according to a report by Reuters, it's now back on the rise and younger people are getting involved with the tradition.
Reuters spoke to one man who has around 70 crickets, which he calls his 'little gladiators'. His pampered fighters have their own room in his house and on the wall a framed photograph of his favourite 'little gladiator' hangs on the wall; Hongyaqing (which means 'a black cricket with two red teeth') won the 2004 National Cricket Fighting Championship, so earned itself a place on his wall.
Owners are reported to put the bugs on special diets to help build them up and ensure a win. There are even weight classes and referees as well as teeny beds for the 'fighters' to get some well-earned rest.
One cricket-owner, who didn't give his name, told Reuters he picked up $20,000 (£15,600) in a single match thanks to one of his insects.
He said: "There's a lot of betting. But it's against the law. You don't know the place [where the betting matches go on]. Only the guys who know the place know the place."
Unlike other 'blood sports', such as cock-fighting or bull-fighting, cricket fighting rarely injuries the animals involved.
The fights last just a few seconds and the loser is determined as the cricket who runs away from its opponent first - or simply stops chirping.
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