SBC Digital Summit: Keeping sports honest during COVID-19


With so little live sports in the world to bet on, whatever there is left has become hugely popular. Who would have thought in February that Table Tennis and Belarussian football would be carrying sports books right now? But as we all praise these heroes of the sports betting industry, the adults in the “room” at the SBC Digital Summit came to discuss how easy it could be to fix those matches.

sbc-digital-summit-keeping-sports-honest-during-covid-19The “Implications for Sporting Integrity” panel, moderated by Lee Richardson, CEO of Gaming Economics, featured discussion of just how dangerous these offerings might be for sports books. The panel featured Gilles Maillet, Director of Sport Integrity for La Française des Jeux (FDJ), Rupert Bolingbroke, Head of Trading for the Hong Kong Jockey Club (HKJC), Andrew Ashenden, Chief Commercial Officer for Stats Perform, and Matt Fowler, Director of Integrity for International Betting Integrity Association (IBIA).

Ashenden noted immediately that, because these leagues and matches feature much lower paid athletes, “there’s a great proportion of at risk matches at the moment.” Bolingbroke added that, when compared to major league games, fixers can fix matches much more cheaply now.

Maillet worries that the industry might already be behind the ball with this. As the industry sought business continuity, it flocked to these lower level leagues to find any action at all. But at the same time, criminal organizations have business continuity too, and they’ve likely already looked into match fixing these games. For that reason specifically, the FDJ has decided not to offer wagering on Nicaraguan football. Bolingbroke also noted that the HKJC has decided to only offer wagering on its own horse racing, not willing to take a risk on lower league matches.

A question from the audience wondered how long it would take to investigate match fixing, if it was suspected. While data points can help an operator suspend a line at any time, to actually prove match fixing, you need an investigation at the ground level. And as Bolingbroke noted, it’s a difficult time to ask the government to investigate integrity issues, when government authorities are rightfully focused on COVID-19. Thankfully though, for operators looking to protect their books, with so few matches happening, they should be able to pick out the hinky lines that aren’t acting right.

But frustratingly, Bolingbroke noted that many operators continue to offer lines, even when it’s clear as day that the match is fixed. This causes a danger to their customers, who are betting on a match that has pretty much been determined. Fowler commented that IBIA members remove suspicious markets, but individual operators can always take their own steps to stop offering if they don’t trust a specific match or market.

When asked for what positives might come from this whole crisis, Ashenden offered that there is a high level of focus on getting robust standards of data right now, and that will pay dividends down the road. Meanwhile, while Maillet showed plenty of worry about organized crime throughout the discussion, he was hopeful that bad actors could be successfully caught with so few events for them to manipulate.

Even if you’ve missed out on the SBC Digital Summit so far, all of the talks and panels have been recorded to watch, so it’s not too late. Head over and register and see how the gambling industry will come out of this COVID-19 crisis.