As mobile fuels sports betting boom, corruption concerns mount

Wed Jan 20, 2016 6:47pm EST
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By Matt Siegel and Colin Packham

SYDNEY (Reuters) - The rise of mobile betting is transforming global sports wagering faster than regulators can react, flooding the industry with cash and potentially contributing to corruption scandals like the one roiling world tennis, experts and insiders say.

Allegations this week that tennis authorities failed to deal with widespread match-fixing has rocked the game, following similar allegations that have blighted cricket, soccer and other sports.

The ubiquity of mobile phones and tablets has helped transform bookmakers from operators of dingy, smoke-filled betting shops into multi-billion dollar de facto tech firms, pouring resources into developing apps and complex algorithms and marketing to younger and broader demographics.

"We're no longer restricted by geography or the limited choices of one betting company. And we have wall-to-wall sport every day of the week from across the globe beamed into our lounge rooms, on our smartphones," said Scott Ferguson, a wagering industry consultant. "Technology is everything."

The greatest danger for mobile gambling to intersect with corruption lies in the ease of fixing a one-on-one sport like tennis, darts or snooker, according to experts and professional gamblers.

Mobile apps that allow in-game betting on individual points or games allow athletes to stealthily manipulate the results and may strike some of them as less unethical as throwing an entire match, said Sally Gainsbury, a senior lecturer at Southern Cross University who has written a book on the subject.


Customers prepare their sporting bets at the betting shop Victoria in Madrid in this October 11, 2008 file photo.  REUTERS/Susana Vera/Files