How many times have you placed a live bet on a match without watching it? If you’re a frequent in-play bettor this situation will surely appear natural. Online bookmakers offer various bets on hundreds of matches every day, where most of them are not covered via live streaming. As a matter of fact, only 5%-7% of all sports are actually covered live.
Regardless, live betting is becoming more popular with each passing day. Some bettors have even quit the “traditional” way of pre-match betting and focus entirely on in-play. This fact has added more pressure to online bookmakers, who try to offer as many matches as possible to sate their demanding customers thirst for betting.
Can anyone prove it's 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 is there any proof these matches are actually taking place?
The answer is simple: There is absolutely no proof!
Even if you have the team's names, current score and even the names of the scorers!
This might sounds impossible to believe, right? Although it obviously does, the strange thing is that it has actually happened! A match that included full details, goals, cards, corners, even information concerning “dangerous attacks” and ball possession, never actually took place.
The fixed 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 team’s official websites, they have scheduled a friendly match to take place between them.
The match is set to start at noon (14:00 local time) and both teams have let their fans know that they can live the match action through a play-by-play commentary as no cameras will cover the event. Many online bookmakers like Bet365 and Sbobet are offering odds for this match and have even made it available for live betting, presuming that they can use the information found at the “official” play-by-play commentary.
An epic underdog comeback
According to the two websites information, the match was nothing like your average boring preparation fixture. Shakhtar Soligorsk, the absolute favorite, took the early lead, with Slutsk taking 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 deep during half time.
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.
What actually happened
However, 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 on this day, but that they never even met on the same ground save for a few morning training sessions when one team was leaving.
Everyone was struck with the same question: What happened on that day?
Three 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 Sbobet associate. There were rumors that some board members from the two clubs were connected to this, but this was never officially proven true.
As a 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. What matters however, is this: Whoever manages to convince an online bookmaker that a match will actually take place and is able to hack two credible sources of information can make a non-existent match look real.
"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 on the online bookmakers ears. Since that day, bookies are looking to employ reliable sources who will witness these in play events, directly from the stands. Betting companies obviously assure us that betting live is totally safe, but “black holes” always have and quite possible 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 online bookies try to ensure that when there’s no camera, live data is always transmitted in real time. Even a few seconds delay could be valuable to bettors who are inside the stadium and can take advantage of delayed data transmission.