It’s Sunday night and punters from all around the world are contemplating their weekend betting results. Once again, quite a few favorites lost, or didn’t manage to win. Some results seem almost unbelievable and it is logical that many people are shocked and in disbelief. This is the perfect time for the age-old conspiracy theory to appear: “The darn bookie fixed the results to steal my money”!
No, we're not exaggerating. Simply take a look at the social media after a matchday with irregular results. You’ll find a whole bunch of comments containing the words “fixed match” and "scam bookies", all around. It’s not that everyone truly believes this, nor could they prove their allegations if the did, it's just easier to put the blame of a bad choice on someone else.
The belief that global and backstreet bookmakers are arranging who will win a local derby or if an own goal will be scored in injury time, is all too familiar among bettors. Allegedly, all that it takes is a couple of phonecalls, and even football giants like Barcelona and Bayern Munich can be persuaded. The funny thing though, is that if you ever told this to a bookie owner, he would answer that it is nothing but pure nonsense. Bookmakers not only refrain from fixing matches, but they are also sworn enemies of match fixers.
Powerful bookie weapons
Let’s clear this out from the start: It is an undeniable truth that match fixing takes place in sports. Similar to anything else in everyday life, legality and morality can be bought for the right price. The oldest quote on corruption comes from the Romans when Cicero told "there is no fortress so strong that money cannot take it". However, there's a huge difference between questioning a result's transparency and being quick to label every single match as fixed.
You may be wondering, how bookies fit into this. It's quite simple. Bookmakers don’t fix matches because they don’t have to. When it comes to betting, nearly every weapon is by their side. The most powerful one in their arsenal is the rake; that small percentage of money that they get regardless of the result. Apart from the commission they can use countless other ways to cut their losses or increase profits. Rejecting a bet, lowering the amount you can stake, removing betting markets, or even place a counter-wager on other bookmakers or betting exchanges.
Now ask your self in full honesty: If you had all these weapons, would you risk the profits of a trustworthy long term reputation, just to get a short term profit from a single match? Yeah, neither would we.
Respectable betting sites
Bookies win in the long run
Let’s take a look from another perspective. According to the law of large numbers, under normal circumstances the bookmaker will always win in the long run. Perhaps he might lose some money during a week or so, but when the quarterly reports run in, he will most likely be in the green. A bookmaker will offer tens of thousands of bets meaning that all he cares about, is to balance the total amount staked to guarantee a higher profit from the rake.
A fixed match is considered as a “violent intervention” to the normal state of affairs. Although awarding a hefty cash reward to a match fixing syndicate will not bankrupt a bookmaker, it can lead to a huge loss in their revenue.
This is why bookies are nowadays at the front-run of match fixing investigations. They will notify and provide the necessary figures to those authorities responsible for combating this trend. They will offer details on the amounts placed on certain bets as well as the identity of the persons involved. Whenever a bookie observes an unusual activity on certain markets, they sound an industry wide alarm. For example, large amounts of money on a minor league match or an influx of bets on high paying choices such as half time comebacks or correct scores.
The anti-fixing coalition
Almost every bookie in the industry has joined in this coalition. They employ financial experts, risk managers and use sophisticated software that allows them to instantly know the identity and amount behind each choice. This lets them evaluate whether or not a match should be considered as suspicious or not. The more details a bookie shares, for example receiving a disproportionate amount of bets, the more accurate the investigation will be. Moreover, similar to bonus hunters and arbusers, individuals involved at match fixing are usually banned from every online bookmaker, as there’s an informal “black list” that includes names, ID’s and financial details.
How about the exact opposite? Starting an investigation about a bet that was NOT confirmed? That’s an initiative all bettors would like to see. The authorities would look for big money being placed on certain bets that never won. After all, this is the reason bookies are blamed for. Although this would certainly make things more transparent and appease all of us bettors, it is nearly impossible to pull through. Doing this would start a never ending procedure where winning bettors would be vilified as match fixers and every single upset would appear as having being manipulated. The cases would be so many, that the authorities would end up chasing shadows.
What can you do about fixed matches?
Unless you happen to know for certain that a match is fixed, there is no way of finding or avoiding fixed games. Naive as it may sound it's best to follow Thomas Gray poetic verse, “ignorance is bliss”. The less you know about fixed matches, the more enjoyable and profitable betting will be. If you place bets on various leagues and matches, it's inevitable you'll bump into such games. Sometimes you’ll lose, sometimes you'll win and most likely you will never know whether a match was fixed or not. The only thing you can do is try to stay away from leagues with bad reputation and stick to your existing betting strategy.