Match-fixing has been the subject of at least one session at just about every sports betting industry conference we’ve ever had. Regardless of all the efforts to date, match-fixing still exists around the world and according to one of the world’s top match-fixing experts Declan Hill, its time we have an adult conversation about how to tackle this problem once and for all.
Hill, Associate Professor of Investigations, University of New Haven, also an author and investigative journalist, infiltrated one of the major match-fixing gangs as they were fixing games at a major football tournament. To this day he retains a number of contacts and sources inside the match-fixing world, a key to tackling corruption in sport at its roots.
“I see this fundamental gulf between what’s happening in the match fixing community where they are continuing – almost unchallenged – by any of the quote ‘anti-match fixing industry’ and I think its time that we pulled up our socks, frankly, and said look, we as a gambling community, as a sports community, as a research community like myself, we have to do better”, he said.
So why is it that regulators, operators and sports bodies have been talking about squashing match-fixing for so many years, yet corruption in sport still continues to thrive? Hill believes the answer lies in getting to know our enemy.
“I think step number one is all of us have to turn off the taps of bullshit. There’s an enormous flowing of malarkey and nonsense over this issue. There’s commercial agendas, there’s people who are still the deniers. They are sitting in the denial camp saying it never exists, it never happens, or if it does, it happens somewhere else in the world”, he said.
“We’ve got to stop this, we’ve got to say, look, the match fixers know how we work, they’ve got a really good idea of what the bookmakers are doing, they have people quite often inside the bookmaking companies, so how are we going to beat them?”, Hill explained.
“Lets identify our enemy and lets really take a battle to them. Lets stop the nonsense of denial”, he added.
The second thing we can do is an industry is listen to former fixers and experts who know the fixers such as Hill. Coming up in June, Hill will be speaking at two events on the subject of match-fixing. First he will present at Gaming in Holland on June 5th and 6th as the keynote speaker and second in Florence at the end of June as the host where he’s bringing a couple of former match fixers to speak about how they beat the bookmakers.
“These are really the two key steps. There’s one- stop the nonsense. Lets actually be able to have a robust conversation. And two- lets listen to people from the other side. Lets listen to these former match fixers and learn from them so we can stop them”, Hill shared.
When it comes to the nascent US regulated sports betting market, match-fixing is a huge concern for stakeholders and in fact, has been used as an excuse for crushing regulated sports betting in the US. To provide some clarity, Hill testified to Congress on the issue back in December, roughly six months after the repeal of PASPA.
“What happened is effectively one of the biggest societal changes in the United States since the end of prohibition happened on May 14th of last year and that’s the handing over to the states of whether we’re going to allow sports gambling or not”, Hill explained.
“Since that date there’s been an ‘Oklahoma Land Rush’ where all these people have been driving their commercial jalopies into state capitals across the country and selling people either really good information or just huckster kind of stuff, you know, ‘sports gambling is going to fix every pothole in the road and bring up every orphan and cure every widow’”, he said.
“And again, we really need to have a proper conversation. This is what regulation in the sports gambling industry can do, this is what we can achieve, this is how much we can achieve, but its not a panacea for all societies’ problems, nor is it, frankly, the cancer that the other side has been saying. ‘We must make all sports gambling illegal’. That’s the dark age stuff”, he added.
When asked how Congress responded to his comments and his thoughts on the state of regulated sports betting in America, Hill confirmed that there is still a long way to go.
“America is still at a painfully low level of knowledge. They really do not know”, he said.
“That conversation is still baby steps. America still is having a very, very beginning conversation and there’s a lot of commercial agendas, there’s a lot of people who are trying to sell something. They need you, they need your informed debate, they need your informed discussion and they need to bring this conversation up quickly”, he added.