Betting – A boon or a curse?
An Everton fan from Jordan, barely out of his teen and with twitter handle @Jordolenko, must be cursing himself now. Seems a bit weird, right? Especially after their thumping 4-0 win over the much fancied and star studded Manchester City last weekend. The icing on the cake was the injury time winner by young starlet Ademola Lookman. That goal felt even sweeter as it came from a horrendous defensive mistake by ex-Evertonian John Stones. Not for our friend from Jordan though. This is what he had predicted before the match.
Just imagine what fortune he would have earned that day had he taken a punt? It could have been a perfect day for him – just seat back, relax, and visit an online casino. Alas, it was not meant to be!
Football betting is not new in English football. Even if we ignore the unorganized sector which was ruling in the 19th century, one of the earliest evidences of structured betting syndicate can be traced back to 1923 with the establishment of Football Pools. It was an instant hit – people were flocking in numbers to have a crack at winning easy money. While the involvement and enthusiasm around the beautiful game was a major reason, basic human nature of greed played a huge role in spreading the popularity for football betting across the world. And with the advent of modern technologies and internet, placing a bet has become as easy as tapping a button in your smartphone. Access to internet and satellite television channels have meant betters are more knowledgeable than ever, and they have become as innovative as one can ever imagine. Bets can be paced on any event during the match – score line, first team to score, first person to be booked, last person to goal – as well as on time dependent outcomes like the next goal scorer, player to be subbed off in the first ten minutes after half time etc.
According to a report published by Sportradar in 2013, the betting industry – including both the legal and illegal segments – was estimated in the range of $ 500 – $ 700 Billion. Surely it has increased manifold in the last few years. This brings us to the question what is “illegal” in betting then? Well, it varies from region to region. For example – in India, any form of betting is illegal. In Singapore, placing bet at a pools store is legal, but not in any other platform. In some parts of the world, illegal betting syndicates offer better odds. Also these alleys offer the users to bet anonymously and utilize their black money to punt. There is high risk as there is no accountability and the entire system is based on mutual trust but such is the lure of making money that people don’t hesitate. While these unaccounted transactions eat out of the business of the authorized bookmaking agencies, they also cost the government millions in lost tax revenue, the men behind it revel. But the illegitimate sector continues to flourish all over the world churning out billions.
The biggest casualty of football betting has been the beautiful game itself. While betting came into picture for enthusiastic fans, players and officials themselves got dragged into it to make a fortune. As little as a reckless tackle inside the box resulting in a spot kick to a goalkeeping blunder, every small action in the field can fetch millions for the corrupt players involved in the betting syndicate. Regulators keep scanning as many matches as they can to spot an anomaly during matches, but time to time news come out about betting scandals in football. Unless and until everyone involved – the administrators, the officials and the players – realize in upholding the integrity of the game, the battle against betting will not end.