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Welcome to this regular TIW column, highlighting some of the stories and results that have caught the punting eye of our editor-in-chief Sean Callander.
As a sports betting information product, The Inside Word is often criticised for the amount of material we publish relating to issues such as match-fixing and spot-fixing. Before we launch into this latest story, let us explain TIW’s position. Our take on match-fixing could be compared to that of a supermarket manager attempting to curb shoplifting. No matter how much he or she does, items are still going to be pilfered from their store. The main aim is to minimise the losses, attempt to stop the major thefts and send a strong message that shoplifting won’t be tolerated. The Inside Word uses a similar methodology.
The mainstream media continues to peddle a line that match-fixing is carried out by a few rotten eggs and that the sporting competitions have a firm grasp on betting activities. This is a dangerous falsehood that simple doesn’t stand up to close scrutiny.
We readily accept that match-fixing is a major issue for racing and sports around the world. We minimise its impact on our bankroll by avoiding certain sports that have either been proven to be a hub of corruption or sports that are more susceptible than others. You’ll very rarely see us publish content relating to cricket (especially T20 tournaments), UFC or tennis, for example. They are sports that have been proven time and time again to be a strong focus for fixing by both illegal bookmakers and participants.
Other sports we avoid, for various reasons, include harness racing, greyhound racing, college basketball and a segment of sporting competitions we lump under the banner of “second-tier” competitions. Such competitions include the lower leagues of the major footballing nations or the premier competitions of lesser footballing nations. We’re not saying for a moment that such leagues have match-fixing problems (although nations such as India and China have had massive problems) but such environments are ripe for the intervention of corrupt bookmakers – salaries aren’t high and players/officials could be tempted by an easy buck.
As an Australian-based business, we’re particularly concerned with what’s going on in our own backyard. The mainstream media continues to peddle a line that match-fixing is carried out by a few rotten eggs and that the sporting competitions have a firm grasp on betting activities. This is a dangerous falsehood that simple doesn’t stand up to close scrutiny. Yes, most major Australian sporting (and all racing) codes have relationships with bookmakers that are licensed in a state or territory of the federation. But those relationships don’t translate to international operators who take bets on local sports without a license.
Ironically, it took an international (and legitimate) wagering organisation to sound the latest warning on the attack to the integrity of Australian racing and sports. Recently, The Australian reported that the Hong Kong Jockey Club had made a secret submission to the Australian government, which is due to release a report this month on how best to deal with competition from international gambling sites not holding Australian licenses, as well as whether to lift the longstanding prohibition of online in-play sports betting.
The HKJC’s submission, not so subtly titled Illegal Betting Markets and Links with Organized Crime, claimed that the integrity of Aussie sports and racing were under threat by Asian-licensed online bookmakers and their alleged “links with transnational crime syndicates.” The HKJC submission singles out several Asian betting giants by name, including SBOBET, IBCBET (since rebranded as Maxbet) and the CITIbet betting exchange. The HKJC’s filing claims SBOBET and CITIbet received 40,000 visits from Australian IP addresses in the six months to September 2015, and that CITIbet’s Australian racing turnover is around eight per cent of the sum wagered with Australian-licensed tote operators.
Australia’s racing industry has adamantly opposed the notion of relaxing the Interactive Gambling Act’s restriction of in-play wagers to phone betting or in-person with a domestic retail point of sale. Aussie-licensed online operators have retaliated by calling the online in-play ban antiquated and intended to benefit the entrenched interests of land-based operators. For the record, this isn’t the first time the HKJC has targeted CITIbet. In November 2014, the HKJC singled out CITIbet for cannibalising the HKJC’s race betting turnover. CITIbet insiders rejected these claims, saying the Philippines-licensed exchange was actually responsible for driving much of HKJC’s turnover by informing punters as to which runners the sharps were backing.
It could also be argued that the HKJC’s desire to enlist a foreign government’s help in beating back its international competitors may have more to do with the company’s financial outlook. Last month, the HKJC warned that the struggling Chinese economy was likely to cause the HKJC’s betting turnover to fall for the first time in the past decade. HKJC CEO Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges said turnover during the current season’s first 40 meetings had been up slightly year-on-year but he expects China’s economic slump to result in a net decline of between 3% and 5% by the time the HKJC’s final numbers are counted.
In the meantime, high level Australian sports officials continue to follow a dangerous PR line. Take last week’s story in the Fairfax press revealing police have launched an investigation, related to match-fixing, into a high profile basketball coach. The coach is accused of making a bet against his own team. According to The Sydney Morning Herald, Basketball Australia issued a media release on February 12, stating that they were inquiring into reports of match-fixing.
Basketball Australia CEO Anthony Moore said that the organisation was cooperating with the investigation. He said that the moment his organisation came across the initial reports of match-fixing on Melbourne breakfast radio, they alerted the relevant authorities. These authorities include the Australian Sports Commission, National Sports Integrity Unit and the relevant law enforcement. “Once the relevant law enforcement agencies have completed their investigations then Basketball Australia has the ability to examine the issues and see if any of its integrity policies have been breached,” Mr Moore said.
Surprising that Mr Moore wouldn’t make the most of his contacts in the wagering industry, starting with NBL sponsor Ladbrokes! The Inside Word is confident (say about $1.01) that no charges will be laid in this case. Until the sports and their mostly useless integrity units can stretch their tentacles into the unregulated world of sports betting, particularly in SE Asia, they’ll continue to expose their sports to corruption. Instead, they’ll focus their energies on prosecuting some stupid coach who’s probably chucked a lazy $50 on the opposition in the knowledge that his team couldn’t beat the Washington Generals.