In recent months, there’s been a lot of talk throughout Australia about the possibility of expanding online gambling. While some have expressed concerns that any expansion of online sports betting could threaten the integrity of Australian footy matches, both league officials and bookmakers have said that a number of steps can be taken to help protect sport from the possibility of gamblers fixing or manipulating games.
One great example of this was announced this week, when officials from the Australian Rugby Union announced that they would take part in a cooperative effort to help monitor suspicious betting patterns around the world. ARU will work with a group known as Global Sports Integrity to track patterns in over 100 betting markets globally, including many here in Australia. The initial agreement is to track such betting for 18 months, which will last through the planned British and Irish Lions tour in 2013.
While the ARU hasn’t had the issues with scandals that some of the other major Australian sports bodies have been forced to deal with recently, they still realize the need to be vigilant about the possibility.
“We’ve now put in place what we at the ARU believe to be a world-best practice to ensure our code’s integrity is maintained,” ARU integrity manager Phil Thomson told The Australian. “We’ve seen how exotic bets, which are now freely available on the web on both individual and team performance, can put the integrity of a sport at risk.”
One of the biggest issues that worry the ARU and other sporting organizations is the potential impact of micro-betting. This class of bets allows punters to bet on individual plays that are part of a match – a single ball in cricket, or an individual point or game in a tennis match. These bets can be problematic, as an otherwise honest player might be convinced to play badly at a single moment, particularly when this is very unlikely to affect the outcome of the match.
That’s where monitoring betting markets can be an important tool for organizers and officials. If an unusual flurry of bets is played and seems to predict an unlikely event that later occurs, this can later be seen as evidence of foul play. Since a lack of integrity is bad for business, bookmakers often proactively report such suspicious betting patterns, too.
The Australian government is also taking steps to protect the integrity of sports. While new regulations are expected in the coming months to liberalize online gambling, one place where the government appears unlikely to budge is in micro-betting, which is likely to remain off limits for Australia’s online bookmakers.