Sports betting and corruption

One of the sadder stories last week was that of Wayne Shaw, an English footballer who was forced to resign for eating a pie mid-match, knowing that a bookmaker had laid odds against this. Apart from the absurdity of the case, there’s an obvious problem pointed out by someone I read on Facebook. Once he became aware of the bet, he would have been just as guilty or innocent if he’d chosen not to eat anything, and thereby help the bookies instead of the punters.

More generally, I find it impossible to imagine that sports betting isn’t causing widespread corruption. Take the popular bet on who will score the first try in a match. Suppose Player X, who knows his friends have bet heavily on him, has the choice between going for the try himself, or passing to a team-mate in an arguably better field position. The problem is obvious.

Less obvious is the case of Player Y, whose friends have bet on X. He can choose to pass left, towards X, or right, in which case Z has a chance to score. Such decisions must be made all the time, and it’s far from obvious which is the right one. So, going for the try yourself or making the play that helps your friends is nothing like throwing the game (the only profitable way to cheat in the days before these exotic bets). And, unlike match fixing, it seems to be just about impossible to prove wrongdoing.

I don’t have a solution, except to steer clear of contests where betting is a big deal. I do, however, have a hot tip for those who follow age group triathlon and can find a betting market. Unless I’m in a team, bet against me in the 60-64M category, at just about any odds you can get.

Update That’s the best individual response. The policy response, I think, is to legalise and encourage welching. That is, refuse to enforce gambling debts through the legal system and apply strict liability to attempts at collection through strong arm tactics, with a presumption of guilt against the creditor even if they can’t be tied directly to the enforcer.

18 thoughts on “Sports betting and corruption

  1. Sutton United (the team who sacked Shaw) were forced to use an outfielder player in goal yesterday after the regular keeper was injured. Unfortunately, poetic justice wasn’t delivered; they won 3-2.

  2. But can we trust JQ to stick to the trusted beer-chips- and-ciggies regimen and not secretly train to win? As Bert Brecht wrote:
    In mir habt Ihr einen Mann
    In dem kรถnnt Ihr nicht trauen.

  3. Being best at any professional sport used to be about having;

    (a) the right genes; and
    (b) the opportunity.

    Now its about having;

    (a) the right genes including those acquired by gene doping;
    (b) the right performance enhancing drugs;
    (c) the opportunity.

    I feel sorry for anyone deluded enough to play, follow or bet on professional sport. It’s meaningless and cruel, to humans and to other animals like horses, dogs etc.

    Amateur sport is fine if you enjoy it. I wouldn’t think it wise to push too far into the zone of masochism though.

  4. Shooting is sometimes considered a sport. I see a chap in the USA has invented printed machine-guns and the machine for making them. He is building the machines for sale and export. Am I a terrible person for verbalizing the following wish? “I hope someone shoots him and kills him with one of his own printed machine guns.”

  5. The black market economy is often ignored by the ABS and other statistical research centres. Yet a lot of money changes hands every day for what, given the want of a better name, economists call “bads” -the opposite of goods. How can this oversight be corrected to give a more accurate picture of
    Money transfers? Given that most illegal transfers are never declared to tax authorities, this seems to be an insolvable omission form GNE data collection streams.

  6. Sometimes corrupt players get caught, such as the Pakistani cricketers a few years ago and also Ryan Tandy the rugby league player. He was very careless though because he placed the bets himself.

    It’s a good bet to stay away from exotic bets, as opposed to betting on the outcome of a match, which is usually much harder to fix. But these micro situations which are vulnerable to corruption mostly don’t have much money bet on them, and when they do this is when the authorities get suspicious.

  7. Ah, but was that betting publicised by someone who wanted Wayne Shaw out of the team? It would be very easy to bet heavily on an action by a player knowing that those unusual bets would be publicised. At that point, as you note, anything the player does is evidence of guilt.

  8. Smith :

    Itโ€™s a good bet to stay away from exotic bets, as opposed to betting on the outcome of a match, which is usually much harder to fix. …

    I read a detective novel in which somebody was fixing US college basketball games. Key to the scheme was the fact that people don’t bet on the result of the match exactly as it occurs, but on the results after factoring in what they call ‘the spread’. I think this is true of most betting on team sports, because otherwise it would be close to impossible to get the bets on both sides that bookies need to balance things. As a result, it was extremely difficult for anybody to detect that the star player was fixing the games; his team was still winning and he was still scoring lots of points. But he was manipulating the play to make sure that his team won by less than ‘the spread’ — if, for example, they were favoured by the bookies to win by ten or twelve points, he’d make sure they only won by six or eight (in the book it was called ‘point shaving’), which meant bets on his team would still lose and bets on the other team would win. Point shaving doesn’t directly harm the team, only the people who bet on it, which must make it more tempting for players. There’s a sequence early in the story where the PI is watching videotapes of games, knowing about the accusation of point shaving, and he still can’t figure out whether it’s happening — he needs an expert to watch the tapes for him and give him a detailed report before he can be sure.

    (Playmates by Robert B Parker, if anybody cares.)

  9. @J-D

    Basketball is especially vulnerable because there are only five players on the floor at once, a team’s scoring can be dominated by one player and free throws, which are taken by one player unassisted by team mates and unimpeded by opponents make it or not by a matter of inches.

  10. What I don’t understand is why anyone honest would ever take either side of any of these very obscure wagers. It only makes sense to bet on these obscure events if you actually have some inside information… otherwise why would you ever do it? So who is taking the other (non informed) side of the bet? As an honest punter, how could you not be suspicious if a bookmaker offered you odds of a goal-keeper eating a pie at 1/2 time? As an honest bookmaker, how could you not be suspicious of any punter wanting to place bets on whether the 3rd ball of the second over would be a no ball?

  11. @Peter Rickwood
    I find these kind of bets extremely weird too. You would have to be statistically vacant, enclosed by narratives and wildly egotistical. AKA normal ๐Ÿ˜

  12. I wonder, did anyone bet on the Italian Rugby Team exploiting a little understood rule which allowed them to legally position themselves in what appeared to be blatant off-side positions in defence against England? What was a little more odd was that they played normally for about 13 minutes (IIRC) and then suddenly began their unusual tactic. Admittedly, Italy had most of the ball possession for the first 10 minutes but even so their sudden implementation of the trick tactic after the 13 minute mark was most striking.

    Side notes:

    (1) What did Italy do? They tackled, released immediately, then deliberately did not form a ruck. That is, all of their forwards stood in a line about 1 meter back from where the England forwards tried to form a ruck and found they had no opposing rucking forwards. In this case a ruck is not formed according to the rules and the attacking forwards cannot pull an opposing player into a ruck. He must enter of his own accord.

    When a ruck is not formed there is no offside line. The rules state an offside line is formed at the rear foot of the rear player in the ruck (IIRC that’s roughly the rule). With no offside line, it’s still open play and defenders can stand up in the attacker’s back line or anywhere they like.

    (2) For the record, England were clueless for a long time about what to do to counter this tactic. Even master coach Eddie Jones seemed clueless for a long time. Maybe he figured out something by halftime. The Kiwi Rugby press, after the match, immediately abounded with comments that of course the All-Blacks would have known what to do straight away. They are all demi-gods, don’t you know? ๐Ÿ˜‰ The AB’s would have used “pick and drive” tactics, judicious kicks and a few other genius moves only an All-Black can think of. Ever notice how successful sports people are all “geniuses” too? ๐Ÿ˜‰

    (3) My interest was piqued by this event because I have a general interest in “games” and also in “serious behavior” and within that I then have an interest in formal rules and both the incentives to follow rules and the incentives to break rules, bend rules or exploit rules. Exploiting a rule can come into a moral grey area. It is legal but is it moral or “sporting”? Eddie Jones stated it “was not rugby”. Then there are interesting questions about how we all like to import a bigger “moral” framework into an argument when people exploit rules, find loopholes, beat us at our own game and so on. But this is turning into a sandpit rant so I might take it to the next sandpit sometime soon.

  13. I used to say sport was important because it wasn’t. And I have read where cycling and rowing were ruined late nineteenth century by gambling. Old saying – never back anything that talks!

  14. John, As for steering clear of competitions where there is no betting, there is a story on the news a few years ago about the Indian subcontinent betting now extending to suburban soccer matches in Melbourne.

    They showed some shots of the soccer ground. they were no more than a changing shed that you and I would remember from playing sports at school.

  15. @Jim Rose

    Ha ha, how does one define the boundaries of countries in a ‘global IT world’? Building a wall ain’t going to work, it seems.

  16. I made a minute is to say used to bet on greyhounds because they did not have a jockey on the back to read the race. Then I heard of the various unspeakable things that greyhound trainers do to make their dogs run slow.

    There is a International cricket Council report on corruption by Paul Condon who head of the Metropolitan police some 15 years ago on how corruption entered county cricket and International cricket.

    Goes back to the 1970s talking about how bonus points lead to teams coordinating by putting on bad bowlers to allow them to scare quickly and then declare to bring life back into a three-day game affected by rain. Just went from there

    @Ernestine Gross

  17. I don’t have any comments about sports corruption, since I don’t really follow sports (even though my family mostly likes sports, the AFL footballer Laurie Mithen was a distant relation, the sports journalist Anthony Mithen is my cousin, and his daughter Lily Mithen is one of the pioneering female footballers in the new women’s league).

    But I do have an important comment about corruption in the entertainment industry and media which has had deadly consequences.

    I have spent the last 2 years, since about Easter 2015, doing research into a segment of the entertainment industry who are involved in a secretive transnational S&M sex and drugs ring.

    I did this due to people involved in this stalking and harassing me in their work, after i was targeted, without my knowledge, by the sadist pimp hooker at the centre of the sex and drugs ring, in 1997-1998 when she was setting up a branch in Melbourne.

    I was 19, and happened to be a fan of the American bands she connected with in 1995-1996 on the Chicago record label Drag City (Pavement (Stephen Malkmus, Scott Kanberg and others), David Berman (Silver Jews), Will Oldham [Palace, Bonnie “Prince” Billy], Bill Callahan (Smog), Royal Trux etc.

    I also happened to be a fan of some of the Melbourne musicians the sadist was setting up connections with in 1997-1998 โ€” The Dirty Three and the Xylouris Ensemble. She also linked up with Rowland S Howard and Andrew Entsch. She appears to have chosen these musicians due to their use of heroin (Drag City bands also used heroin) and because they were connected to Nick Cave who she wanted as a marquee name client and got in around 2000-2001 and stayed in the sex and drugs ring lying about his life to the media still in 2017, with the government giving him an AO this year, which they will just have to rescind again since he is corrupt and a criminal. The sadist pimp also linked up with music writers in Sydney and Melbourne โ€” Guy Blackman, Anthony Carew, and Aaron Curnow, all of whom work in the music industry as well as writing in fanzines, The Age, streetpres, and 3RRR. The sadist pimp also linked to Tasmanian musicians Tim Evans of the Sea Scouts who relocated to Melbourne, and Chris Smith.

    The sadist is a total creep, and got artists in her sex and drugs ring to stalk me from when I was 19 until this very day, when I am 38. The artists are corrupt and seem to think they can do whatever they want since they are famous, and don’t obey laws about defamation, invasion of privacy, stalking and harassment, etc.

    However what I have found out in my 2 years research shows even higher levels of corruption.

    The sadist creep pimp moved into the Melbourne scene in 1997-1998.

    At the same time, in the Melbourne organised crime scene, the Underbelly Wars began.

    I have found out that the sadist pimp and her entertainment industry sex ring was involved in the Underbelly Wars.

    The police never investigated this, the media never reported on anything, the government did nothing.

    The Purana taskforce was set up to investigate, but since I found this out in less than 2 years of amateur detective investigating work, and the Purana taskforce apparently never found it out in 13 years of paid investigating, it looks to me like either they didn’t investigate properly because the detectives didn’t want to upset the entertainment industry and media in Melbourne, or else the management or government told them the entertainment industry sex ring was a no go zone for detective work.

    This was deadly.

    The sadist pimp targets young people, and the American bands had sung about 2 murders in the circle in 1996 and 1998, both of prostitutes.

    The sadist pimp lured some kids in the Melbourne outer suburb of Sunshine into her crime ring. They were only about 21 or 22 at the time, apart from the leader who was a Greek guy about 4 years older so 25 or 26 at the time. He seems to have been the one who linked up the younger kids with the sadist pimp and the organised crime, I think with connections to the Greek band The Xylouris Ensemble.

    These kids went on to be known as The Sunshine Crew in the Underbelly Wars, most of them have been murdered out in the last 20 years.

    One of the few left, Rocco Arico, was recently gaoled after police got a mate to wear wires and record him talking about organised crime stuff. He got 10-14 years and faces deportation when he gets out, since he never got Australian citizenship. Rocco Arico is not necessarily safe in gaol, because the Sunshine Crew got connected with Carl Williams, through Andrew “Benji” Veniamin, and Carl Williams was bludgeoned to death in gaol, with no guards intervening, after he was going to tell the police some stuff he knew.

    Other murders that appear to be connected to the entertainment industry sex ring are “Mad Richard” Richard Mladenich, a St Kilda poet and heroin user who dealt drugs to pay for his habit, the “Vampire Gigolo” Shane Chartres-Abbott who was a S&M prostitute, and Willie Thompson, a sometimes actor that was also involved in organised crime.

    The American organised crime operation appears to have 2 CIA agents on board as well, one the sadist pimp’s father who was suspected of murder and of being a Russian double agent, I think he was a Cuban immigrant since I read the CIA recruited lots of Cubans around the Bay Of Pigs time, and a lot of them couldn’t find work in America and went into organised crime in Florida. And the other one, Bill Callahan, who sang on his 1995 record he went into spying despite his father โ€” both his parents were spies โ€” telling him that he wasn’t suited to be a spy due to his personality, which is a sociopath in my opinion.

    The police and media never investigated the role of this corrupt transnational entertainment industry sex and drugs ring being involved in the Underbelly Wars. I worked it out in 2 years of research and I am not even a detective, I just used my skills from doing history in my undergraduate degree.

    This is the worst corruption I have ever seen. Lots of boys from Sunshine got murdered, and I got stalked since I was 19, at least 3 prostitutes have been murdered, and some other people.

    And I can name 3 journalists in The Guardian who know about it and don’t report on it apart from allusions, and I can name 3 journalists in The Age, one presented on Triple J, presenters on 3RRR etc.

  18. I think the policy response should be a Royal Commission, and also that drugs need to be legalised and regulated. The community doesn’t support the drugs laws in any meaningful way, and it leads to corruption, and people taking risks in the drug trade.

    Also the other thing I forgot, was the sadist pimp used her clients and contacts in the entertainment industry to threaten some of the organised crime people, saying if they didn’t let her do what she wanted or if they reported it to the police or something, she would use her clients and contacts as a collective super grass to get the organised crime people who didn’t go along with her put in gaol. The organised crime people couldn’t go to the police about being blackmailed and threatened by her, since they worked in the drug trade.

    The police only bother prosecuting drug crimes on the supply side not the demand side, which allows demand for drugs to grow, while the supply side runs all the risks. They might make big money, but they can also be murdered, and the police don’t bother investigating properly if it will upset people in the entertainment industry and media.

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