As if Australia’s gambling ecosystem didn’t have enough headaches because of the money-laundering scandals on the casino side, the sports side is making things worse. An exposé by Australian media outlet ABC News has confirmed that the country’s sports leagues are making money off bets in all levels of sports, including in soccer matches with teenage players.
Bet365’s sign promoting betting at a test cricket match in Australia. Deals between sports leagues and sports betting operators in the country could become a problem. (Image: Getty Images)
With the help of sports data scouts at live events, sportsbooks around the world are able to enhance their betting menu. The scouts capture data that is then fed back to the sportsbooks. The scouts only have access to the games because the leagues allow it.
That practice, which is laid out in contracts and used around the world, is innocuous and not enough to draw attention to any possible wrongdoing. However, there are also “secret” contracts in Australian sports that almost no one knew about until now.
Big Money Through Secret Deals
Australian sports leagues, including Football Australia, the National Rugby League (NRL), Cricket Australia, and more, can earn as much as 17.5% off sports betting. The revenue streams, according to ABC News and its Four Corners division, come through commissions the sportsbooks pay the organizations. Four Corners, per its website, is designed for “exposing scandals, triggering inquiries, firing debate, and confronting taboos.”
The NRL has acknowledged that it makes about AU$50 million (US$33.74 million) a year off its arrangement with the sports betting ecosystem. The Australian Football League reportedly makes up to AU$40 million (US$27 million).
The leagues use the money to ensure their respective sports maintain the highest level of integrity. Some of the money goes toward “integrity services” and not-for-profit development programs for soccer. According to the NRL, the sports betting revenue stream is “relatively small.”
There are people across the world that could be betting on our games that have got no idea who we are. There’s got to be a limit to it,” said South Springvale Football Club President Jim Simos.
Football Australia reportedly receives either 1% of every bet made in Australia on soccer, or 15% of a bookmaker’s profit, whichever is higher. Even if the sportsbook has to pay out a particular bet and takes a loss on it, the league still comes out as a winner.
Where the story gets interesting is in a recent game involving the South Springvale Football Club in the Victorian State League 1. That’s part of a semiprofessional Aussie soccer league, and the team is mostly “made up of plumbers, electricians, and a doctor,” according to ABC News.
South Springvale played a game last month where a data scout was present. He apparently works for Sportradar and is one of 5,000 scouts the sports data company employs around the world.
Mad Money on Unknown Teams
It’s not just the professional or semiprofessional leagues, either. Singling out Bet365, ABC News said the sportsbook offered lines on 146 Australian soccer games in one weekend in May. Of those games, there were under-20 competitions that had teams with players as young as 15.
Not even the clubs like the idea of seeing scouts at the games. Jim Simos, the president of South Springvale, called it “disturbing.” He opposes the idea of allowing people around the world to bet on a team they know nothing about, and asserted that Football Australia has never addressed the issue with the club.
The lower-tiered sports leagues employ players who take the field for the love of the game, not for the money. Many of these around the world offer no salary or compensation to the players.
This presents a problem, because as former Bet365 trader Prasad Kanitkar puts it, each of these games can “attract thousands of bets every minute. With “up to $1 million” wagered on a single game, there’s a lot of money at stake for bettors. This gives them an incentive to offer the players money to help them win their bets. Bet365 denies the assertion and the amount of revenue.
It’s a problem already being investigated halfway around the world. A recent match-fixing scandal in Brazil is making trouble for soccer everywhere. The new revelations out of Australia will likely lead to even greater scrutiny.
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