SunBets Fined £84,000 Over ‘Piegate’ Scandal
SunBets, the betting arm of British tabloid The Sun, has been fined £84,000 ($120,000) over an overweight semi-professional soccer player’s decision to eat a meat pie .
It was an incident that left a bad taste in the mouth not just of the player in question but also the UK Gambling Commission, which has warned betting companies to be careful about the kind of novelty bets they offer.
Last year, Sutton United and its “roly-poly goalie,” Wayne Shaw became a minor global press sensation, not for their giant-killing run in English soccer’s prestigious FA Cup, but for Shaw’s pie-eating antics from the substitutes’ bench.
The problem was, SunBets had offered 8/1 against such an incident occurring. Like many novelty bets, it was a joke, in this case about Shaw’s weight. At 320lbs, he is unusually heavy for soccer player, even one from the fifth tier of the English game, and the chant “who ate all the pies?” has followed him throughout his career.
‘Pie-eating Market’ Too Easy to Manipulate
The goalkeeper’s decision to sink his teeth into the hot pastry-based snack as his team crashed out of the fifth to Arsenal, was also a joke, albeit one that cost him his (part-time) job.
The UKGC warned that betting operators must not offer propositions that are easy for individuals to manipulate because it compromises sporting integrity.
SunBets operator, the Australian betting firm Tabcorp UK, was also sanctioned for offering odds on someone streaking during the game. Because it would be easy for anyone, given the inclination, to place a bet and then do it, the company was essentially inciting people to engage in an illegal activity, said the UKGC.
“Novelty betting markets, such as the market Tabcorp UK offered on last year’s FA Cup tie between Sutton United and Arsenal, may seem like a bit of fun but the consequences were serious – with the potential to encourage someone to commit a criminal act or breach a sports governing body’s rules,” the regulator added.
Many soccer fans felt Shaw was dealt with too harshly by the Football Association, which fined him £375 ($537) and banned him for two months for violating betting rules. He later resigned from the club, “in tears,” according to his coach, Paul Doswell.
The subsequent UKGC investigation also found Tabcorp had also allowed over 100 self-excluded gamblers to continue to place bets by opening duplicate accounts.
The UKGC said Tabcorp failed to “carry out a specific risk assessment on the potential impact of the pie-eating market on the individual who had a pivotal role in determining the outcome of that market.”
Tabcorp has accepted that it “should not have placed reliance on the eating of the pie being broadcast live on the BBC as being sufficient to fully manage the potential integrity risks involved,” said the UKGC.