The English Premier League is awashed with sports bets, according to a sports integrity watchdog.
Chris Eaton, executive director of Qatar-based International Centre for Sport Security, told Agence France Presse that “up to €1 billion is bet on each Premier League game,” noting that large sums of bets are being placed on results, regardless of which teams are playing.
The former head of FIFA security estimated that as much as 80 percent of the money gambled on Premier League games comes from countries, or even administrative regions within countries, where sports gambling is illegal. Most bets are for half-time and full-time scores, where the “big money” is made, according to the report.
Eaton pegged the sports gambling market to be worth around $1.5 trillion annually, adding that majority of wagers are spent on football, followed by cricket and tennis.
“It’s getting worse because it’s continuing and therefore it’s becoming entrenched,” the former policeman told the media outlet.
Eaton recently called for the international community to legalize sports betting.
“The global sports betting economy is four times larger than the sports economy itself. And none of that, in and of itself, is an issue. A transparent, strictly monitored, well-regulated betting economy poses little threat to the integrity of sport. However, our current system is the opposite: opaque, ignored and far from well-regulated,” he wrote in May.
The problem, Easton said, is that an estimated 80 percent of all sports bets are made illegally, which often leads to corruption.
“In that way, illegal sports betting undercuts the foundation of integrity, fairness, clean competition and uncertain outcomes—the very reasons we love sports. Every race, fight, game and match becomes a market to be potentially manipulated,” he explained.
ICSS released a research last year, claiming that the global sports wagering handles ranges from €200 billion to €500 billion annually and that 80 percent of these wagers are made in markets where the practice is forbidden.
According to the report, Asia and Europe account for 85 percent of the total wagering market. Europe accounts for 49 percent of the legal market, while Asia makes up 53 percent of illegal wagering.
For Easton, there is a simple answer to all these issues—legalize sports betting.
“Governments worldwide need to legalize sports betting, or at the very least bring illegal gambling out of the shadows so it can be kept from influencing the outcomes of sporting events,” he said. “A bet on a strong international regulatory system for legalized betting is guaranteed to ensure the integrity, transparency and fairness of the sport. That’s the only sure winner.”