Legalising betting, more than just a quick fix
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The seaside resort of Antalya, Turkey, played host to a friendly double-header on a midweek night in February 2011. Estonia versus Bulgaria was to be followed by Bolivia versus Latvia — a couple of exhibition games involving no teams of international significance. While less than a 100 fans passed the turnstiles of the stadium on that Wednesday evening, these two back-to-back matches were followed online with a little more interest. Make that a lot more interest.
On several registered betting websites, online gamblers had placed a little over $13 million on these two innocuous games, with a lot of money riding on there being at least three goals in each of these fixtures. If that wasn't abnormal enough, the referee awarded four penalties in the first match — with Bulgaria and Estonia finishing 2-2, much to everyone's delight (and perhaps prior information).
In the second game, as Bolivia led Latvia 2-0 (again both penalties), the referee awarded a spot-kick to Latvia as well. When the penalty-taker missed it, the ref ordered him to retake it. This time he scored. The match ended with three goals.
Thanks to these sites being independent bodies with clean reputations to maintain, most alerted FIFA's top cop Chris Eaton. Eaton in turn alerted Sportsradar, a gambling watchdog that monitors over 300 such registered sites to check for unusual waves in the market. Sportsradar also happens to be a company that is in agreement with FIFA to share such information.
Legalised betting, hence, played a bigger role than expected to corner and subsequently arrest the biggest bookie football has ever seen, a Singapore based business called Wilson Raj Perumal, a man who fixed well over a 100 football matches in five continents.
The Sopot incident
A very similar incident occurred in tennis back in August 2007. In an obscure clay court event held in Sopot, Poland, then World No.4 Nikolay Davydenko was expected to brush past his little known Argentine opponent, the 87th ranked Martin Vassallo Arguello, in the second round. Only, a few online gamblers on Betfair did not agree.
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