It Is Inevitable for the US to Legalize Sports Betting (Part I)


Posted: May 29, 2015

Updated: May 29, 2015

The International Center for Sport Security says the United States have to regulate sport betting and to learn from the European mistakes to avoid large scale betting scandals.

In countries where betting on sports is illegal, organized crime took over the market, while in countries with regulated sports betting, match fixing is the underworld’s business. The International Center for Sport Security states that the US gambling laws should regulate sport betting or at least the leaders of the country should recognize the worldwide scale of the market.

• U.S. need to legalize
• Danger coming from abroad
• NBA wants legal betting

In the United States, where sport booking activity is illegal outside Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey, match fixing is not a common problem. However sport betting is everywhere, and many, including the leaders of the NBA, think that the honesty of the games could be saved only by legalizing this section of the gambling market.

Ghost matches in Europe

Chris Eaton

According to global sports security expert Chris Eaton, who has worked with INTERPOL and FIFA previously and now acts as the executive director of sport security for the International Center for Sport Security (ICSS), the United States have the potential to save the credibility of international sports. All this comes after fraudsters from Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia have brought European soccer into danger zone, says Eaton.

The Europol stated that referees, club officials and players were bribed for millions of dollars in more than 15 countries in recent years. The low point came obviously when the influential syndicates responsible for the bribes have organized nonexistent games backed by fake data called „ghost” matches to generate profit by betting on them.

The United States should at least mind that the global sports betting market is roughly four times bigger than the global sports economy according to online sportsbooks in the US. Though a large portion of it operates on unregulated markets, there are organizations keeping an eye on the integrity of the game.

Sports betting is almost as productive as the economy of Russia

Sportradar operates in Europe, monitoring more than 60,000 matches in ten countries per year, and has reported nearly 2,000 games they judged to be manipulated since 2009. Nearly 400 of those were coming in 2014.

The ICSS was founded in 2011to wipe out corruption from sports, teaming up with data services, betting integrity monitors and sports leagues. They estimate the value of the global sports betting market near the magnitude of the GNP of Russia, around 2 trillion in USD.

Regarding USA sports, they estimate bets being placed worth of USD 400 billion per annum outside the States, though the wagering coming from unregulated markets and it is hard to value accurately. However, it is obvious that this is as enormous market and a huge portion of it is in the hands of the underworld.

Eaton expressed that the United States have to legalize or at the very least have to acknowledge the scale of global sport betting to evade the things happened in Europe. This means that they also have to be prepared to handle the attempted manipulations coming from overseas countries with unregulated markets.

NBA pushes for legalization

Basketball on a pile of money

The United States seems to be evaded any large-scale match fixing scandal so far. A Las Vegas study from 2000, examining matches in 12 US leagues during the last decade of the millennium, identified suspicious wagering from only 0.01% of the matches. However, point-shaving was a real problem and it was linked to NCAA basketball in the first place.

A point-shaving scandal appeared first at Arizona State in 1994, and college basketball has one scandal of this kind in every student-athlete cycle on average since. There were published cases at Auburn, San Diego, Toledo and Northwestern too.

The NBA isn’t immunized against betting scandals either. Former match official Tim Donaghy confessed in 2007 that he bet on matches he refereed, though the sport escaped a long-term credibility problem, and franchises worth more than ever before. Betting on basketball has also reached all-time highs as punters wagered more than USD 1 million in Nevada in 2014, almost doubling the amount bet on the sports in 2006, before the Donaghy controversy emerged.

The NBA now backs the legalization of sports betting, however the other major leagues declined to take such a stance. The MLB and the NHL at least plan to review the problem at some point, though the NFL and the NCAA are definite about opposing any betting on sports in the US.

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