A new report on sports betting and match fixing claims that global sports wagering handle ranges from €200b to €500b annually and that 80% of these wagers are made in markets where the practice is illegal. Two years in the making, the Protecting the Integrity of Sport Competition: The Last Bet for Modern Sport report (executive summary viewable here), was conducted by the Qatar-based International Centre for Sport Security (ICSS) and researchers at the Sorbonne in Paris.
The report says Asia and Europe collectively account for 85% of the total wagering market. Europe accounts for 49% of the legal market, while Asia makes up 53% of illegal wagering. The report claims there are over 8k legal sports betting operators while the number of illegal operators is “impossible even to estimate.” Online wagering is said to represent 30% of all sports bets. The report estimates, without citing any sources, that organized crime uses sports betting to launder roughly $140b annually, representing “more than 10% of the worldwide revenue of organized crime.”
While undoubtedly well-intentioned, the report’s authors offer some rather daffy proposals for combatting match-fixing, including “imposing a cap on the rate of return to bettors” because the increased rates of return offered by fixed-odds wagers vs. the old pool-betting systems are “more profitable for fraudsters than for honest bettors.” Anti-match fixing campaigner Declan Hill has taken the study’s authors to task over a number of issues, including their lack of credited sources and for continually confusing illegal bets with match fixing, with Hill suggesting the former is not the villain here.
This thought was echoed on Thursday by Sport Integrity director and FIFA’s former head of security Chris Eaton, who commented on the ICSS report at the Sport Integrity Forum at the Sorbonne. Eaton said “match fixing is a facilitating crime for sport betting, not the reverse,” therefore targeting match fixing was “only papering over the problem.”
Eaton noted cricket was the second most targeted sport for fixers after football, yet cricket betting is illegal in India, a betting market Eaton described as “even more opaque than the Chinese market.” Eaton believes betting fraud is easy for criminals “because it happens in secret.” So there you have it… All we have to do is to wait for the governments of the world to realize that their vendetta against sports betting is what’s corrupting sport, and match fixing will go the way of the dodo. But dodon’t hold your breath.