At last week’s Malta i-Gaming Seminar (MiGS), Gaming Economics participated in an industry panel discussing the issues surrounding sports integrity and betting.
One essential question was debated; who has most to lose from fixed matches, corrupt governance, doping scandals and all the rest? The sport itself, bookmakers, punters or fans?
All have a special and vested perspective, of course, yet it’s difficult to find concrete answers. And it’s not for any lack of interest, nor media coverage.
In just the last year, a plethora of economic and political institutions, regulatory authorities, law enforcement and other agencies – ranging from the EU Commission, Council of Europe, Interpol and Europol right through to UNESCO – have busied themselves in examining this topic. The results?
Yet another series of recommendations, ranging from calls for more intelligence and international co-operation, tougher criminal sanctions and even the banning of in-play betting. What we certainly don’t have is clarity, nor answers.
ESSA, the European Sports Security Association – set up in 2005 by the leading online sports bookmakers – indicated that they had detected just 18 ‘suspicious betting patterns’ during Q3 2015. Bearing in mind that the regulated sports-betting industry would have taken billions of bets on tens of thousands of markets during that period, worth an estimated $100Bn, that ratio seems wholly insignificant to some industry observers.
Perhaps this implies that there isn’t actually a significant betting integrity issue. Or simply that the criminals avoid the regulated betting industry. Maybe they are just smarter at hiding their illicit activity from the authorities and their ‘intelligence systems’. It’s truly difficult to know.
So is this entire topic really all that important? Many, including Gaming Economics, think that it is. The chief sports writer for BBC Sport, Tom Fordyce, certainly says so.
“Sport matters because it has the potential to do what very little else in the world can: uniting communities, stirring the soul, strengthening the body, building bonds between disparate nations, offering individuals identity and an escape. But sport is not getting the governance it deserves.
Governance is a dull word. So is administration. It is critical, and it is critical that it is done right, because otherwise we are all being cheated.
Sport only survives if we all keep coming back. We come back because we believe in it. If that trust goes, everything else falls with it.”
It’s difficult to disagree with a word of those sentiments. The placing of a bet on the outcome of a sports event is an innocent daily pastime for millions of people; let’s hope it can stay that way
Lee Richardson – CEO – Gaming Economics