Why don’t bookmakers agree to exchange data

About the expert:
Director-General and co-founder of the Russian bookmaker Tennisi.bet. he used to be the owner of a large network of internet clubs, an IP-telephony service, several payment providers, as well as amusement arcade venues. He has moved away from being an unsuccessful bettor to being the co-owner of a company with over 700 employees in 4 countries around the world.

I recently posted a screenshot on Twitter of an offer to organise fake tournaments. Fortunately, this isn’t something that gets sent to us often. Probably because our company has developed a certain reputation, and our reaction to such proposals are well known. Nevertheless, they appear occasionally and we always respond in the same manner: We flatly refuse and don't mince our words about it. “Back off” is the only answer they deserve!

What should you call them? There is no point in beating about the bush. Whatever you like: a gang or a group, but I wouldn't even use those. Maybe professional scammers are the softest words we can use that don't offend.

People who are organising such tournaments are looking to profit in two ways: either they negotiate with bookmakers and adjust the result as they need, or they are looking for contact from players who have accounts in good standing with bookmakers, in order to bet a large amount on their games and pick up the winnings when they make it happen.

In the first option, the victims of the scammers are the players, in the second the bookmakers. We refuse to be a part of such tournaments and bookmakers around the world are doing a tremendous job of preventing players from betting on the already known results of certain events. Unfortunately, we are still far from drawing a line on this issue, but each bookmaker is trying its best. There are bet limits and other mechanisms to prevent this, but the current situation is an incurable sore in sports and it is not yet clear how we can ever beat it completely.

There is no one solution that would help everyone, and fixed tournaments are still taking place. It's one thing when a tournament is organised, for example, as a basketball three by three. It's not even a proper league. We can easily avoid betting on fixed matches in these “one-off” tournaments, but when it comes to fixed results in (for example) ATP competitions, it's a completely different story. Unfortunately, the world of sports is quite deeply affected by such cases, and it is the bookmakers who suffer most because the main activity of these scammers is aimed at getting winnings from their bets.

The tournaments make some money, but bookmakers lose even more than that!

The fake tournaments that are proposed to us, which will be organised in our favour are most often made by amateurs. Recently there have been no propositions received which would involve professional leagues. I remember a few years ago there were proposals for the Russian basketball second division and some other average leagues. Maybe someone gets offers from professional leagues, but for now, what we receive is exclusively amateur. We always categorically refuse to participate in such frauds, so as a rule they simply don’t contact us as they know how we will react. I am not aware of what the situation is with my peers in the industry, because, unfortunately, we do not exchange such information. There is no such practice, and everyone somehow experiences the same story without telling others. Maybe someone goes for something, someone does not, but there is no exchange of data like: “yesterday they called, offered this, look out, don’t accept, something is brewing”, nothing like that.

The reason is simple, I believe it is a competition. Some have a better security department, someone else's is worse, why would they help them, if they can not help themselves? The bookmaker with a good set up will simply let the other bookmaker pay a couple of million rubles to upgrade.

The bookmaker market has very tough competition, it will be hard to find others quite like it. The strongest survive: if you don't know how to work with such a category of bets, then listen buddy, you don't belong here, that's how they think. The rescue of a drowning man is the work of the drowning man himself. Nobody will pull you out of your unprofessionalism.

Imagine that a player has placed a bet on a fixed match. We accepted the bet and found out that this person has placed a bet on a fixed result. Did I go and announce to everyone that they should no longer accept bets from him? But they may think that I’m lying and that I want to make things worse for them. There are a lot of opaque things here, and all attempts to exchange data these days have failed…Therefore, everyone has its own story and a way of dealing with things.

The situation gets more complicated because everything happens anonymously, they contact us from an incomprehensible mailbox. Who is it? Who can we complain to? Professional fraudsters don't write from a verified account they can be traced to, this is well-disguised operation. There is no one to present a complaint to, and no one to accuse of doing it. You could probably accept their offer and try to hold this tournament so that they can be taken by the police at the moment of transferring the money… but again, they are most likely outside of Russia, working with cryptocurrency, etc. You will spend a huge amount of time, effort, money, and success is unlikely to come and if it does what do you win? If you want to do all this, you do it, if you don't want it, ignore them and go on with your life.

The new law, which forbids accepting bets on unofficial sporting events will significantly reduce the base for attacks on bookmakers since in order to accept bets, a tournament must be linked to the Russian federation. However, the bookmaker market does not stop with 20 bookies in Russia, we are just a grain of sand. What percentage of the market will be cut off from the total pie? One percent? And 99% is still available.

So, fake tournament organizers won't really feel anything. All of this will continue to thrive on offshore sites.

What legislative instruments should be used to squeeze out fraudsters is a complex issue that has not yet been resolved and definitely not worth expecting a breakthrough from our legislators. We have certain standards for fixed matches, we have to notify if we think that we are accepting bets on such matches, but this is all poorly dealt and does not work. As far as I know, there has not been a single appeal from a bookmaker regarding this provision of the law and, most likely, there will not be. Even if you had the fact of a suspicious bet, such an appeal would be very expensive for you. Now everyone says that there are no such bets, therefore there should be no appeals. In the short term, we don't expect any progress on this issue. Perhaps we will see some kind of interesting ideas in the world, somewhere in the west and then we will wait for this practice to come our way.