Bill South: Traders are the frontline in the fight against betting corruption

Match-fixing and betting corruption is a major challenge for both operators and sports sanctioning bodies, due to the detrimental impact it has on the fairness of wagering markets as well as the integrity of sports.

Bill South, Director of Security and Community, William Hill

In a recent update published on the William Hill Plc website, Bill South, the company’s Director of Security and Community Affairs, discussed how effective match fixing prevention can be achieved.

South, like many employees at betting firms cited a ‘passion for sports’ as the motivating factor for joining the industry – which in turn instils a desire to see fixtures played with honesty.

“There’s a perception that bookies don’t care about fixing,” he detailed. “That we get our cut, regardless of which side wins. But that’s plain wrong. We have to make sure our markets are fair. Because if our customers don’t believe that’s the case, they simply won’t bet with us.”

Horse racing, he argued, is perhaps the best example of this due to the fundamental link between the sport and the betting industry. If punters cannot put their faith in an operator to guarantee that a race and the markets associated with it are fair, then they will not place their bet.

Noting that match fixing has a negative impact on both operators and their customers, South went on to detail how the illegal practice can be effectively countered by those within the industry itself. 

Two of the most important actors in this process – of which there are multiple ‘links in the chain’ – are the operators’ traders, who South argues are in ‘the frontline in this fight’, and the International Betting Integrity Association (IBIA).

William Hill’s traders work to constantly assess markets and the bets being placed, evaluating factors such as whether pricing are moving away from company models or whether a customer is repeatedly betting on the same ‘niche outcome’.

This process requires a keen eye and attention to detail, as a punters may repeatedly back a horse because in South’s words ‘it’s the NAP of the day in the sun’, or a certain football team may be bet against due to a star striker being injured prior to the match.

The traders take note of prices which move unusually with ‘no obvious explanation’ – at which point, the IBIA’s role becomes more prominent. If trends such as these are noted, then the IBIA is alerted, and the market may even be suspended.

Subsequently IBIA members worldwide are asked if they have seen similar patterns on the same market, developing an aggregate view ‘which is so much more potent than one operator alone trying to work out what’s going on’.

The IBIA can then escalate the suspicious activity further, alerting relevant gambling regulators or sports governing bodies about the issue. Fortunately for operators, customers and sports figures and enthusiasts, the IBIA’s Q2 2021 update revealed that the number of suspicious betting alerts reported to governing bodies had substantially decreased since the previous quarter.

A call for transnational cooperation has been placed at the forefront of the fight against sports corruption as governing bodies face the age of ‘globalised crime’ syndicates targeting pro sports. 

“One of my big successes at Hills has been establishing intelligence-sharing agreements with sports governing bodies,” South concluded.

 “All parts of the sports and betting ecosystem want to stamp out match-fixing, and we’ve all become a lot better at communicating between ourselves to do just that.

“Sports have come a long way, too, from sharing data, to educating players about the risks. Unfortunately, Match-fixing is never going away entirely. They say speculation is old as the hills. Well, so is cheating. While there is money to be made and humans involved, criminals will be trying to tamper with them. 

“But with technology, the expertise of our traders and open communication between stakeholders, our customers can play safely in the knowledge that win or lose; they had a fair crack of the whip.”

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