28 December 2023
Betting is interesting because most people who engage with it responsibly find a potentially exciting way to generate some extra cash on the side. And when you pair betting with sports, you might just get the most popular game of chance ever conceived.
But it is easy to feel cheated out of your money. You are on a losing streak, your balance is down, all your matches go awry at the last minute, and even if you are reasonable, you might accuse the whole system of being rigged. But is sports betting rigged, or is that just a fabrication?
In this article, we will take a look at the world of sports betting rigging and advise you on how to avoid being on the wrong end of a cheating scheme.
Generally, sports betting is not rigged, but this is a really complicated question. The main reason why betting rigging is relatively rare is because there are so many moving parts that basically have to work in unison to guarantee success. Team sports are especially hard to coordinate like this, but even solo sports are hard to run schemes in. The penalties for getting busted are also severe, with participants potentially facing jail time.
That being said, sports rigging is definitely not out of the scope of possibilities. It is impossible to know how many running schemes there are, but a number of high-profile cases have been uncovered. For example, in 2006, the match-fixing scandal called Calciopoli was uncovered, upon which Italian football side Juventus was stripped of two league titles, were automatically relegated to a lower league, and many match officials were banned for life.
So, although there are many high-profile cases of sports betting being rigged, the large majority of gaming isn’t fixed. Bookmakers determine the odds to always be in favor of the company, which relies on the influx of bettors on their platform. As such, keeping the odds relatively fair is an incentive for the betting platforms.
There are many forms of sports betting rigging. One form of cooperation by many participants is called match-fixing, which is the aforementioned Calciopoli scandal. Although this is a vague term, it generally refers to colluding by either the players and/or the officials to influence the outcome of a game. In this scenario, many of the participants who are aware might place bets on the agreed outcome or get a share of the profit from other bettors.
Another form is insider trading (although this can be a part of match-fixing, too). If players, staff members, or officials share information otherwise not publicly available about a match or a team, they are providing insider information with which the recipient of this knowledge can bet with an illegal advantage. For example, when LeBron James during the 2018 NBA Finals broke his right hand on game one, this information could’ve been leaked to others not privy to this information, which would’ve influenced their bets.
Although there are many high-profile cases, they are statistically rare because of the high-level scrutiny these sporting events are under. This is why many believe that low-profile sporting events are much easier to rig and are rarely uncovered.
Sports betting is rigged for the simple reason any other game of chance may be rigged - money. For some people, the allure of making a quick buck is irresistible, and being able to bet on things that you can influence is just too good of an opportunity to pass by. Moreover, the smaller the scam, the easier it is to pull off. After all, who will launch an investigation into a fourth-tier volleyball match in Estonia?
Although the previous one was a hyperbolic example, it illustrates the allure of betting rigging. However, as with every crime, the risk generally outweighs the rewards. Players caught cheating can receive fines from the local sports governing body, but depending on the severity of the offense, lifetime bans can be issued as well.
As fixing sports betting is a potentially serious offense on the financial front, independent judicial bodies may issue prison time to offenders, although not necessarily for the offense itself. While tangentially related, Olympic medalist Marion Jones faced prison time for lying about using performance-enhancing drugs between 1999 and 2001. The offense itself was obstruction of justice; her drug usage can be considered as match-fixing as it has greatly influenced the outcome of the races she participated in.
Fixed sports betting is really hard to avoid. While in games like poker or roulette, rigging is much easier both to implement and to spot, and betting rigging is a multi-faceted issue with many moving parts. As such, it is extremely difficult to discern being cheated from a genuinely unlucky run.
That being said, there are ways to make your betting experience safer. You should be informed of the nature of the sporting event you are betting on. You can do that by reading reviews or looking at the history of the competition. If it has a stellar record on the corruption front, chances are you can engage with it more safely.
It is also likely that higher-level sporting events have a lower chance of being fixed. Even though there is significantly bigger money in these competitions, there is also a higher risk of being busted due to the rigid supervision. Low-level sporting events have much less scrutiny put on them and, therefore, are easier to fix. Even so, this should not be taken as a golden rule, as the rules still apply on low levels, and penalties are just as deterring for potential cheaters as on the main stage.
Rigged sports betting is uncommon but may still occur. Rigging happens in many forms, such as match-fixing and insider trading of information. The main incentive behind sports rigging is getting money fast, but there are severe penalties for offenders ranging from fines to prison sentences.
Spotting and avoiding rigged sports betting is hard as there are no obvious signs. Checking the history of a specific competition, team, or player can be indicative of how fair betting on them is. Low-tier sporting events may be more susceptible to rigging, but there is no definitive evidence to suggest that penalties still apply there, deterring potential cheaters.
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