The specter of match-fixing looms over a changing sports betting landscape
Yana Sizikova lost her first round match at Roland Garros with her partner Ekaterina Alexandrova. It turns out that was the least of his problems.
The Russian player, ranked 101st in doubles on the WTA Tour, was arrested at Roland Garros shortly after her match earlier this month on allegations of a match-fixing. Sizikova is under investigation for her loss at Roland Garros 2020, when the 26-year-old and her partner lost to a Romanian pair. Red flags were raised within a French police unit specializing in betting fraud and fixing by the amount of money wagered on the Romanians to win a particular match in the second set, when Sizikova served two doubles faults.
The Paris public prosecutor’s office declared that Sizikova had been arrested for “sports corruption and organized fraud for acts which may have been committed”. She has not been charged, but is still under investigation.
The attempt to manipulate sporting events for the benefit of punters is not new, especially in lower level and non-traditional sports where athletes, coaches and officials do not receive huge salaries and are likely to accept money to influence an outcome. In the world of COVID-19, the sports industry – like so many others – has been undergoing an economic beating for over a year now.
In February, the Guardian reported that match-setters “were branching out into new areas and targeting particularly vulnerable teams and players.” Suspicious activity includes betting on friendly football, volleyball, table tennis and esports matches.
“With the collapse in the amount of sports in 2020 as a result of COVID-19, we have discovered a massive spread of match-fixing cancer,” Andreas Krannich, managing director of integrity services at Sportradar, told the UK-based publication. âIn the past, match-fixing players have targeted sports and leagues where profit and turnover are greatest, such as football, tennis and basketball. But now they have diversified.
âWhat the fixers quickly realized was that a lot of sports are now suffering financially from COVID-19. And where there is much less money, players, referees, coaches, presidents are increasingly vulnerable.
Sports betting has been around since the first modern Olympic Games in 1896, but betting has reached new heights thanks to internationally established legal betting operations, better access to offshore sports betting and the technology that opened the door. betting during matches.
“We have seen a massive evolution in sports betting,” Friedrich Martens, head of the International Olympic Committee’s Olympic Movement unit on the prevention of competition manipulation, told an online panel discussion last month. with Krannich on integrity in sport. The IOC created the unit in 2017 after working with law enforcement and Sportradar during the London 2012 Games, then set up its own internal monitoring program for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
“The fight against doping and match-fixing is at the same level today,” Martens said. âWe are working on the regulatory front, helping the national Olympic organizations to put in place the rules. On the intelligence side, we cooperate with many partners (including) law enforcement, lotteries, sports betting operators and others.
Since the United States Supreme Court overturned the single-event betting ban in 2018, leagues such as the NHL, MLB, and NBA that once fought against legalization of betting have turned around and are exploiting opportunities to generate income by selling data (statistics) and creating sponsorship deals with sports betting.
“We’re just adapting to the changing legal landscape,” NHL director Keith Wachtel said in March before a House of Commons committee studying a Criminal Code amendment that would allow single-event sports betting in Canada. Canada. âThe market is changing radically and, as such, we are working in collaboration with all stakeholders.
âThere has been extensive technological innovation, increased sophistication of partners and, perhaps more importantly, I think a real understanding of how a regulated and legal sports market can better promote accountability and accountability. integrity in relation to an unregulated market. “
CFL Commissioner Randy Ambrosie, speaking to a Senate committee this month, referred to the league’s constitution which provides for life suspensions for “anyone involved in match-fixing.”
At third reading of Bill C-218 in the Senate Thursday, an amendment by Senator Vernon White to “cheat or help someone else cheat at gambling, regardless of the outcome, a Criminal Code offense âwas rejected in a close vote.
âFor this bill to be fair, match-fixing must be illegal,â said White, retired chief of police and RCMP deputy commissioner. âWe will have a problem with match-fixing. Every country does.
Witnesses at the committee hearings pointed to existing language in the Criminal Code which they say deals with redress and has been upheld by the Supreme Court of Canada. On Thursday, Senator Brent Cotter referred to recent legal opinions he had received from criminal lawyers.
âThe Criminal Code, including the fraud and cheating provisions at stake, (is) more than sufficient to handle the range of match-fixing strategies that could occur,â Cotter said.
JOIN THE CONVERSATION