The scene was set in late August, England vs Pakistan at Lord’s, 4th test match. The match seemed like any other, but a few days later it became known that three players from Pakistan were paid by their agent, Mazhar Majeed, to arrange for “no balls” to be bowled at specific moments during the game. The goal? To make money by wagering on these events at online sportsbooks in the UK and abroad.
The accused cricketers, Salman Butt, Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif, left England for Pakistan last week, but under a promise from Pakistani interior minister Rehman Malik that the trio would later return to England for questioning regarding these match fixing allegations. If they are found guilty of deliberately throwing the match, they will be banned from the sport for life.
Mark Davies, who sat on the UK Sports Betting Integrity Panel, says the source of the problem lies with online sports betting websites. “The fundamental problem is that not all betting is transparent and trackable. If every bet was placed in an auditable system we would not have a problem.”
This sort of tracking of internet betting in the United Kingdom and the rest of Europe would of course be difficult to accomplish. It would first involve complete legalization and liberalization of online sports betting across Europe, followed by strong collaboration among internet bookmakers. Online sportsbooks would have to implement technology that would trace every click of the mouse, building giant databases that keep track of who made what bet – a move that might upset some punters.
Close monitoring of all online sports bets for suspicious betting patterns may put a damper on sports corruption and match fixing for a short while, but illegal betting would soon switch to other channels, turning the whole thing into an endless game of cat-and-mouse. In the end, illegal sports betting and match fixing might be lessened with great effort, but the problem will never go away.