Making sports betting fair: Why Fonbet takes a zero tolerance approach to match fixing
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Making sports betting fair: Why Fonbet takes a zero tolerance approach to match fixing

Taking a zero-tolerance approach to match fixing and breaches to sports betting integrity is the only way to ensure fairness according to Fonbet.

Speaking with SBC News, a spokesperson for Fonbet discussed the challenges associated with different types of gamblers and why the operator has the broadest expertise when it comes to combating match fixing in Russia.

SBC: The lazy approach might be to suspect the most successful bettors from an integrity perspective; what would you say to this?

There are lots of players who remain in profit due to their own skill. They know a lot about sports and follow the news closely. At Fonbet, we see no reason to lower their account limits or impose other restrictions on these players. That is providing that they don’t violate Fonbet’s rules.

SBC: And how do these customers manage to stay in profit? Is there certain statistics or software they are using to place their bets?

These players monitor all kinds of sports media, both international and Russian, on a daily basis. They know how to make a prediction based on team and player statistics, and how to analyse that information intelligently. 

In terms of personal characteristics, they need to be able to handle stress well. The customers we’re talking about would never impulsively go all in. They’d never place a surebet or after-goal bet, even if they notice them. They simply wouldn’t risk having their account sanctioned. In other words, they think methodically rather than in the heat of the moment.

SBC: What is your approach if someone finds an odds line that might have been overlooked or mistakenly offered by Fonbet?

I don’t have a definitive answer here, it all depends on the betting style, bet context and the reason why a “best bet” was even offered. What looks like a “best bet” to a customer is, in 99% of cases, a technical error or trader’s mistake. There are a lot of best odds scanners online that can automatically place a bet on such a selection in a split second.

For example, our sports line usually comes out at 12:00, and although it happens rarely, sometimes it contains an error in the odds for a certain selection, for example, in Vietnamese football. And by 12:02, we’ve already gotten a large number of bets on it. Obviously, a real person can’t scan thousands of sports positions in just a couple minutes.

However, in such cases, we always make an informed decision regarding customer bets based on a large volume of data. If betting on this “best bet” was a one-time thing, we wouldn’t say a thing to the customer. But if a given customer only places such bets in an extremely short time after the odds are released, there are only two conclusions: clients are extremely lucky or they’re using a scanner program, which is prohibited under our rules.

While in the vast majority of cases a “best bet” is an accidental consequence of human error, technical error, broadcast delay or date, sometimes we purposefully offer our customers the best odds. Usually they’re for non-standard bets on some new markets where we want to attract interest. Of course, if a customer bets on this “best offer”, we won’t impose any sanctions against them.

SBC: And what about ‘sure bettors’ and ‘corridor bettors’; does your policy differ when it comes to players who exploit the differences in odds between bookies? And what challenges might ‘late bettors’ present?

In reality, surebets and corridors are an ineluctable part of any betting company, and we can’t preemptively prohibit placing such bets. 

We totally understand that such bets as sure bets and corridor bets are often made by a special category of bettors. These clients are risking to get limits very quickly, especially with the use of technical means.  Sometimes customers even say things directly like “I’m not interested in sports, only sure bets and corridors”. But our company’s policy is sports betting for fun, with intellectual bets between the bookmaker and player, not speculation with odds.

With the development of an entire market of various scanners for arbitrage betting, sure bettors aren’t so much interested in sports, as in the efficiency and quality of software that helps them earn on sure bets in several betting companies at the same time.

Our policy in relation to sure bettors and “corridor bettors” is simple: we pay what they won, but their accounts are subject to limits. We’re here to help real people enhance their entertainment, not machines.

Some companies warn that they “do not approve of arbitrage betting” and will cancel such bets. In this regard, we’re much more loyal to our customers: no matter how you look at it, it’s still a bet and we accept it with the odds we set. Perhaps the only people who won’t receive their winnings for sure bets are multi-accounters.

We have an extremely negative attitude towards late bettors, and they’ll always have problems with our betting company. Due to the fact that the basis of a real bet is ignored in these cases, late bets will always be voided. 

Since such bets are often closely related to multi-accounts, I really want to stress that Fonbet in no way approves of late bettors. We have a clause in our rules that clearly states that bets on a completed event are a gross violation and may be voided. “Bets” like these undermine the whole idea of betting. If one of the parties knows the outcome, how is it even a bet?

In addition, this late bettor style of play negatively affects our company’s honest customers. Bets placed around the time a goal is scored may lead to a random check of the account and/or verification procedure.

SBC: Moving past those looking to jump on a mistake by the bookmaker, let’s discuss more deliberate attempts to manipulate the markets; how does Fonbet maintain integrity across its sport betting offering?

We have a no-tolerance policy when it comes to betting on fixed matches. In fact, this isn’t just a gross violation of our betting company’s rules and sports ethics as a whole, but is also punishable by law under FZ-63, Article 184 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation.

The point isn’t only that Fonbet loses money on this because no bets are fair in the event of fixed matches. People who play like this ruin sports in general. By making tempting offers to young athletes to throw the match, they ignore the fact that athletes can earn money with their talent, and instead of that they tempt them to cheat. Thus, it’s the sport as a whole that suffers losses, not just betting companies.

When it comes to customers who bet on fixed matches, we punish them not only by cancelling their bets, but we also report their names to the authorities, federations and accredited organisations that we have partnerships with. In addition to our security department, we also have a separate service that handles relations with such organisations, and we can safely say that we currently have the broadest expertise in Russia when it comes to combating match fixing. Sometimes, we are even looking into old cases by request from our partners. 

So as you can see, Fonbet stands for fair sports and has a no-tolerance policy towards any unlawful influence on the results of sports events and customers who place bets on them.

SBC: Would you say that the Australian Fair Go principle for sports betting is fair? In other words, should operators accept any bet up to a certain amount, as long as the player doesn’t violate their rules?

The key word here is “fair”, and we must be sure that the customer isn’t violating or intending to violate the betting company’s rules. We can say that this principle is fair in theory, as customers are obliged not to violate betting company rules. 

But due to the fact that not all customers are ready to provide such guarantees, the Fair Go principle can’t be applied in real life. We can only discuss it theoretically when every party behaves honestly and has fully transparent mechanisms for checking the behaviour of the other party.

SBC: Do you flag players who bet using bots, including accounts with reduced maximums? If so, how do you do this? 

Do we look for bets like this? Yes. Do we find them? Absolutely. This is all thanks to our IT solutions, expertise and skills of our security team.

We don’t approve of these kinds of customers as our business is based on bets with real people, not machines that can place bets around the clock, making any number of identical bets at the same time from different accounts that don’t have any human characteristics (their own opinion, ability to draw conclusions, etc.).

We find bots by honing in on identical bets placed at the same time from different accounts with restrictions. For example, a sure bet pops up and a few seconds later there are an abnormal number of bets placed. A living person couldn’t physically set an amount and confirm their bet within that space of time. These users are then subject to verification.

SBC: Taking a look at multi-accounts, what kinds of technologies do you use to combat these? 

From a retail perspective, we have CCTV cameras in our betting shops. Sometimes customer’s give their cards to other people, so it’s not always the card owner sitting at the betting terminal. But this is prohibited.

In TSUPIS, we find multi-accounts by the number of coincidences of characteristic features, for example, registration data and IP addresses. For obvious reasons, we can’t disclose all the methods we use. I’ll only note that the procedure for determining multi-accounts is very, very technologically advanced at Fonbet.

You should also understand that there’s a whole business of buying frozen, in-debt and stagnant accounts for their subsequent resale to “successful players”. We monitor forums and the latest market trends. We even know how much an account registered with us sells for, for example, at the end of last year, and the approximate prices for accounts in general. It’s a dirty business, but we need to stay aware of things to help identify multi-accounts.

In addition, we also establish limits on an account if we have good reason to believe that it was sold. From time to time we come across serious cases when an organised group of people purposefully invest a lot of money to purchase software, accounts, and identity documents to turn a profit on late bets or “agreements”. This is bigger than just multi-accounts. It’s a style of betting completely devoid of any fairness and is more reminiscent of a crime syndicate.

SBC: How do these types of players mask the bets placed for the crime syndicate?

They try to cover them up with other random bets. They also buy accounts which are in-debt. Late bettors may also invest money they won on late bets in sports in ante-post bets. They’re known to change their typical patterns of behaviour and buy up accounts where they start to place comparatively uncharacteristic bets. When we carry out verification procedures, they claim that the account was already in the red.

SBC: And what measures do you take where players are betting on matches with suspicious markets? Do you then monitor their betting activity to identify other events which may have been subject to manipulation?

Investigative measures, experiments and observations carried out to subsequently identify match fixing is the prerogative of law enforcement agencies. As a betting company, we strictly follow the law, and according to FZ-244, we are obliged to notify the sports federation of suspicious bets. 

When law enforcement agencies contact us to investigate unlawful influences on the results of a sporting event, we provide all the requested information about the match and our customers. This is a criminal matter, and the punishment is serious: up to seven years in prison (FZ-63, article 184 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation). 

In short, in a system where everyone acts in good faith, match fixing can be completely eliminated.

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