Sports betting side bets aka ‘spot’ wagers aren’t serious threats to game integrity, according to a new study by the Asser Institute’s International Sports Law Centre.
The Odds of Match Fixing report (read it here) used data supplied by sports integrity specialists Sportradar and UK betting exchange Betfair to conclude that the markets for side bets were too illiquid to pose a significant threat.
Side betting is widely perceived to be more susceptible to fixing than match results because (a) a bet might hinge on the activities of a single player, thereby lowering the barriers to entry, and (b) the activity in question may not have much impact on the match result, thereby assuaging players’ moral qualms.
A data set using 120 English Premier League matches over a three-month period in early 2014 showed main betting markets (match odds, total goals) accounted for 86% of bets made via Betfair. Main derivative markets (half time score, extra time, etc.) captured 11.7%, Asian handicap bets garnered 0.7% while side bets scored just 1.54%.
Goalscorer markets accounted for about 61.5% of all side betting volume, while bets on which players would be carded/booked came to 20.8%, corner kicks earned 15.4% and penalties just 2.2%. In terms of pounds wagered, goalscorer markets accounted for just 0.59% of all sums wagered on that match.
The study concluded that the lack of liquidity in side betting markets “offers the unattractive prospect of limited profits.” And if a nefarious sort were to place side wagers large enough to make a significant profit, they would “arouse a great deal of suspicion” for a market in which the average wager was £41.
Another study examined data compiled by Sportradar’s Fraud Detection System (FDS), which analyzes over 53k sporting events per year. Some 1,625 football matches were flagged as highly suspicious between May 2009 and November 2014, representing less than 1% of the total. Of these flagged matches, 1,468 were subject to Sportradar’s Suspicious Market Values function.
In two-thirds of these matches, both suspicious pre-match and live betting patterns were observed. But nearly all these patterns were noted in the main betting (match odds, total goals) and Asian handicap markets. Just six matches (0.4%) featured suspicious activity in side betting markets, although the authors cautioned that not all matches featured side betting markets.
The authors concluded that while the threat of spot-fixing cannot be entirely discarded, “it remains telling that suspicious betting activity has only been detected for a tiny fraction of matches.” The authors found “no correlations between live betting or side betting and possible instances of betting-related match fixing in football that would justify a prohibition of these bet types.”