Football’s governing body Australia is cutting bets on games at all levels across the country, from international blockbusters to suburban amateur club competitions.
- The Confidentiality Agreements outline agreements made by Australian sporting bodies with bookmakers.
- These global companies are betting on community sports.
- Data scouts are used to track games in this neighborhood.
This includes some junior games, players can place detailed bets on who will be leading at half-time, who will win or if there will be a draw.
Football Australia’s secret deal is just one of many similar deals between major international bookmakers and Australian sporting bodies, including the NRL, AFL and Cricket Australia.
The agreements reached by Four Corners show that some governing bodies can charge up to 17.5 per cent of the bookmaker’s revenue from Australians gambling on their events.
These fees, known as product integrity fees, total millions of dollars each year and are part of the flood of gambling money flowing into organizations from sponsorships and advertising.
While most sporting codes allow punters to bet on the top two tiers of the competition, Australian football gets an exemption, whether it’s the Socceroos and Matildas or local social teams.
The confidential agreement states that Football Australia will receive either 1 per cent of every bet placed on a football game in Australia or 15 per cent of the bookmaker’s revenue – whichever is higher.
This means that even if the bookmaker loses the bet, Football Australia will still pay out.
For just one weekend in May, global bookmaker Bet365 was offering bets on 146 football games across Australia, including under-20 competitions in New South Wales and Western Australia.
In one of those games, the Western Australian under-20 team fielded several 17-year-old players and had a 15-year-old on the bench.
At a modest football oval in suburban Melbourne, a strapping man sits on a folding chair on the sidelines of a weekend football game.
A man calmly watches the action, tapping away on his phone, as passionate spectators cheer on the South Springvale team of plumbers, electricians and a doctor.
Scouts like him are key to the operation of gambling companies in Australia. As local games at this level are rarely broadcast live, they send live updates to bookmakers so punters around the world can bet on matches in real time.
Several international bookmakers offer bets exclusively on this game, including British gambling giant Bet365.
“It’s disturbing,” South Springvale Soccer Club President Jim Simos said. The club team plays in the fifth level Victorian State League 1 competition.
“There are people all over the world who may bet on our games who don’t know who we are. It has to have a limit.”
The data scout, who declined to be named, works for Sportradar, a Swiss corporation that specializes in gathering live data from sporting events.
He wears a lanyard indicating that the governing body has given him accreditation to participate in the game.
Sportradar has a network of more than 5,000 scouts worldwide, collecting data from nearly a million sporting events each year.
The Nasdaq-listed company has deals with most of the major U.S. sports codes and generated about $1.2 billion in revenue last year. Its investors include NBA icon Michael Jordan and billionaire Mark Cuban.
“Sportradar is one of several companies that collects data from sporting events in Australia in a variety of ways,” it said.
“We may distribute this data to licensed bookmakers around the world and, if so, subject those customers to strict compliance and background checks. We also use the data we collect to inform our bet monitoring and loyalty partners, including Australian Football, about suspicious betting.” we use
Bet365 is one of Sportradar’s biggest customers
Prasad Kanitkar, a former trader at Bet365, says even suburban Australian football matches can attract thousands of bets every minute from the bookmaker’s international clientele, mainly based in Asia.
He said it’s not unusual to see bets of up to $1 million per game.
“The sheer volume that you see, it’s just amazing,” he said.
“If you’re not in the industry, you have no idea. There’s always more sports, more leagues. It really is a machine that doesn’t stop.”
Asked why he was interested in betting on amateur sports, Mr Kanitkar said: “If you can bet on something, people will.”
“I think it’s a bit like a casino for them, they just see what happens … click on the website and hope for the best.”
Bet365 did not respond to questions about the size or value of the Australian amateur football betting market. In response to questions about the recent South Springvale match, he said the overall betting market for the game was “very low money”.
“Any other representations regarding the value and number of bets accepted on this event and other similar Australian football events are untrue,” it said.
Watch Four Corners investigate how gambling has infiltrated all levels of Australian sport tonight on ABC TV and ABC iview.
Risk of adjusting compliance
The national match-fixing watchdog has warned that offering gambling on low-level games increases the risk of players being approached to throw matches.
“If you’re not paid anything and someone offers you money, you may be tempted to take it,” said Jason Whybrow, Sport Integrity Australia’s director of sports betting and race manipulation.
Sports integrity specialist Dr Catherine Ordway said amateur clubs like South Springvale were particularly vulnerable.
“The combination of all these forces makes the risk enormous,” he said.
Club president Jim Simos said South Springvale had received no preparation or information on how to deal with the threat of increased negotiations.
“Football Australia didn’t come to us as a team and say, ‘Hey, watch out for this.’ It didn’t happen at all.”
Football Australia declined a request for an interview, but said in a statement that it allowed betting on lower-level competitions “as a strategy to protect the game from potential threats to integrity by supporting oversight and sharing information”.
“We are well aware of the potential risks and have a comprehensive integrity framework in place to manage these risks,” the statement said.
“In 2022, domestic product fees will represent a very low proportion of our total revenue. These fees will be reinvested in our loyalty services and various non-profit football development programs.”
Deals with NRL, AFL, Cricket bookies
Concerns about the relationship between sports codes and bookmakers are not limited to football.
Four Corners has seen deals between bookmakers and the NRL, AFL and Cricket Australia.
None of these codes disclose the value of their transactions with international gambling companies in their financial statements.
But the NRL told Four Corners it made $50 million from deals with bookies last year, while the AFL made between $30 and $40 million.
The NRL charges a large commission on risky bets, such as “same game multiples”, which allow punters to bet on multiple outcomes within the same game.
The NRL said in a statement that its agreement with bookmakers allows it to limit the range of games that can be bet on in Australia.
“This was done to protect the integrity of the sport and it is clear that such agreements limit commercial outcomes,” the statement said.
“Betting is a relatively small but important revenue stream that is reinvested in the game’s integrity, education, welfare and participation programs.”
Live broadcasts used for gambling
There are other sports that can be gambled on in the international betting market, including the T20 cricket competition near Melbourne.
One match between Maribyrnong Park Cricket Club and Chargers CC has no data scouts, but people around the world can still tune in to the action.
The club streams games live online using a Cricket Australia approved service called Frogbox.
Maribyrnong Park Cricket Club president Simon Fitzgerald said the club had invested in Frogbox so friends and family of the players could watch matches, as well as generate advertising revenue for the club.
The club did not know that Frogbox was owned by Sportradar.
“To know that someone is interested in north-west Melbourne, an obscure T20 cricket competition, is unusual to say the least,” Mr Fitzgerald said.
Sportradar assures its bookmaker customers that they do not sell live feeds or any match data.
But at least one company was offering betting on the match.
1xBet — a bookmaker registered in the Caribbean country of Curacao — is among the offshore companies offering bets on amateur cricket leagues, including the under-18 competition in Melbourne’s southeast.
Its website is blocked in Australia because it is not licensed to operate in the country, but it can be accessed through a virtual private network that allows users to mask their location.
1xBet did not answer questions about where it gets information about matches.
The company is not registered in Australia and is therefore not required to pay product fees to Cricket Australia.
Sport Integrity Australia’s Jason Whybrow said his agency was concerned that unlicensed offshore bookmakers could use live channels to gather information about matches and offer them live betting markets.
“If data or streams are available for a sport, someone in the world will try to monetize it by having a sports betting market for that event,” he said.
Cricket Australia said it was aware of betting on live amateur matches, but it was up to clubs to geoblock their channels to prevent unlicensed bookmakers from accessing them.
“We encourage clubs to report any approaches or other suspicious behavior, but we are not aware of any evidence that this has led to integrity issues,” the statement said.
Watch Four Corners’ full investigation into the world of sports betting tonight on ABC TV and ABC iview.
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