How many times have you placed a live wager on a match without watching it? If you are a frequent in-play bettor, you might find this natural. All online bookmakers offer hundreds of matches every day; some you can live stream (about 5-7%), while others you can follow via the virtual match tracker. However, there are quite a few events from minor sports and leagues that are not covered whatsoever. You have to wait for the sports betting sites to settle your wagers after they are finished. This has caused a lot of disputes between operators and players, mainly on markets like cards, corners, throw-ins etc. That’s because, in some instances, it is not clear what exactly occurred in a match and there are not many reliable stat sources.
Can you prove the matches are real?
Let's imagine you've entered an online bookmaker’s website and are browsing the live betting section. You glance at the “current matches” list and notice that the vast majority of these are not covered by video or audio commentating. You might get suspicious and wonder if there is any proof these matches are actually taking place.
The answer is simple: There is absolutely no proof at all, even if you have the team's names, current score and even the names of the scorers.
This might sound impossible to believe, right? Obviously, we are not talking about the English Premier League or the NFL, but for less mainstream competitions and matches. This is why a vital point of any betting for beginners guide is to make sure you know what you bet on and not do it blindly. The strange thing is that there have been several strange incidents in the past. A match that included full details, goals, cards, corners, and even information concerning “dangerous attacks” and ball possession never actually took place.
The ghost match that made history
- Date: February 17th 2015
- Location: Antalya, Turkey
Two football teams from the top flight of Belarus, Shakhtar Soligorsk and Slutsk, have chosen the Turkish port city as their main training camp. According to both teams’ official websites, they had scheduled a friendly match between them. The match was set to start at noon (14:00 local time) and both teams had let their fans know that they could follow the action through a play-by-play commentary as no cameras would cover the event. Many of the best-rated bookmakers, like Bet365 and 888sport, offered odds for this match and even made it available for live betting, presuming that they could use the information found in the “official” play-by-play commentary.
What happened in theory
According to the two websites' information, the match was nothing like your average boring preparation fixture. Shakhtar Soligorsk, the absolute favourite, took the early lead. Slutsk took full advantage of their numerous second-half substitutions by turning the match around for a late 2-1 win that made Man Utd's 1999 Champions League Final victory pale in comparison. A Slutsk win was offered at 6.50 odds before the start of the match and reached an impressive 12.50 during halftime.
Both websites confirmed the final score, same goal minutes and scorer’s names and offered identical information about the match stats. As a result, every online bookmaker credited those bettors who guessed right with their winnings, as two seemingly independent sources confirmed the same outcome. However, this result is proof of why bookmakers don’t fix matches.
What actually took place
A few hours after the match ended, some strange claims began to surface. Suddenly, the two teams announced that not only did they NEVER play against each other but that they never even met on the same ground save for a few morning training sessions. Everyone was struck with the same question: What happened on that day? A few years have passed and no one can still offer a clear explanation.
The Slutsk board announced that “some hackers” posted the match result and stats on their website before they managed to take notice. Shakhtar Soligorsk never made an official comment about how the same data appeared on their official website. However, they had originally confirmed the final result to an associate. There were rumours that some board members from the two clubs were connected to this, but this was never officially proven true.
In conclusion, online bookmakers cancelled the bets and refunded those bettors that lost. They also voided any won bets but were unable to take back every payout they awarded, meaning that they lost a significant amount of money to match manipulators. The interesting thing is that no fake betting sites were involved in the incident. Someone managed to convince some bookies that a match took place by hacking two credible sources of information.
‘Black Holes’ in live betting
This match is but one of the four documented ghost games that have ever taken place. However, it made an alarming ring in the online bookmaker's ears. Since that day, bookies have been looking to employ reliable sources who will witness these in-play events directly from the stands. Betting companies obviously assure us that wagering live is totally safe, but “black holes” always have and quite possibly will continue to exist, especially on low-budget online bookmakers who offer more matches than they can handle.
These ghost games may be uncommon, but sites try to convince us that when there’s no camera, live data is always transmitted in real-time. Even a few seconds of delay could be valuable to those who are inside the stadium and can take advantage of delayed data transmission. So, how to avoid getting scammed? The answer is to stick to the things you know and avoid matches involving teams you’ve never heard of.
List of safe bookmakers