Accurate Sports Betting and Issues of Fixing in Sports Betting
The casual impression is that news stories concerning fixing in sports betting are becoming more frequent than in the past.
For example, as of June 2010, major police investigations made headlines over alleged fixing in the football leagues of China, Switzerland, Turkey, and several other European countries. While most recently in India, Pakistan and other cricketing nations had a surge in such criminality
Arrests have been made of players alleged to have fixed events in English domestic cricket. And newspaper accusations have been made against a recent snooker world champion concerning his supposed willingness to lose sets for payment.
The frequency of media stories of this nature probably has no parallel in the past but, even if accusations in such cases were to prove true, this does not necessarily demonstrate that there is more fixing going on.
As with all data on crime, trends could be driven more by variation in rates of reporting and detection than by changes in incidence.
On the other hand, the analysis above indicates that growth and innovation in the contemporary betting market would lead one to expect more fixing: every development in the list appears to raise incentives for fixes to occur, as revealed by the employment of the economic framework.
It would, therefore, appear proper and prudent for governing bodies and other stakeholders to consider more active policies to protect the integrity of the sport.
Where might the threats to integrity be greatest? Liquidity is highest in markets on football, tennis, and cricket, which makes these sports very susceptible.
But liquidity in the market also has to be judged relative to wages in the sport: high liquidity increases the offer a syndicate can make to a player but whether this compensates for potential loss of wage income should the player be exposed will vary with the situation.
In football particularly, liquidity can be high at levels of the sport where remuneration is relatively low and therefore its governing bodies would be ill-advised to focus just on matches in the highest level competitions only.
Similarly, sports such as darts, with less betting interest, could still generate offers from syndicates that are attractive in the context of low levels of prize money.
In all disciplines, a combination of relatively high liquidity and an event that has little significance for the players in terms of either prize money or reputation is likely to pose a high risk.
The expected benefit of fixing for the player is still high if there is a thick betting market but the expected cost will below.
This applies to, for example, ‘dead rubbers’ in cricket (a situation where the series winner is already decided), end of season matches between mid-table teams in football, early-round matches in football and tennis tournaments where a team or player has little hope of progress to an advanced stage in the competition, and exhibition matches in snooker.
All these examples, in fact, correspond to recent high profile instances of corruption being either alleged or proven in bets stories.
Considering the actors in sport, veteran players could present increased risk since, for them, there is less to lose in terms of future earnings.
In the same way for bets sake, some referees may typically be cheap to ‘buy’ and, given their ability to influence events in, for example, football and cricket, are an obvious target for bets criminal syndicates, especially since the growth of proposition markets on for instance number of cards or number of runs by a named batsman.
It is a matter for concern that, during two recent prosecutions relating to referee corruption in the Bundesliga and the National Basketball Association, the convicted referee’s named other officials in their respective leagues who were claimed also to be in the pay of syndicates.
This suggests that the cases that came to light may not represent merely isolated examples of referee-led manipulation.