Betting on the Athens Olympic Games

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1 Betting on the Athens Olympic Games An Interim report based on the first 10 days of competition Our research has shown that the amount of betting on the Olympics is now quite staggering and that all events and all levels of the events, including qualifying rounds, are being used as betting products. The consequent risk to integrity and loss of opportunity value to the International Federations is now at a level which requires a thoughtful and purposeful response. Technology supporting increased betting Since the Sydney games there have been considerable developments in technology in online and TV infrastructures that have created a very vibrant betting market on Olympic events over the internet, telephone and established bricks and mortar betting outlets. The main driving forces that have enabled this to occur are:- The availability of live picture information via interactive TV (itv). For example, in the UK the BBC are showing four live channels simultaneously on individual sports over and above their main programming. These channels can be accessed by just over half the homes in the UK who now have itv (12.5m homes). The UK is the world leader in itv roll- out. In addition, with broadcasters in many countries also streaming video content on the Internet, households with broadband can now, on the same screen, simultaneously watch live coverage and a betting site. Betting has proved to be a very successful product that works extremely well on the internet. Consequently, all the major bookmakers have established websites in all the countries where it is legally allowed and they are making good profits. In addition, a new form of provider, the betting exchange, has emerged and is proving very attractive and competitive to punters allowing betting whilst the event is in progress, with some dramatic results. Countries where Betting is occurring A search around the worldwide web shows that all the main countries active in sports betting have sites offering bets on events at the Olympic Games, generally focused on events that are popular in their country. In Western Europe there is the availability to bet in the local language, if not by a local provider, via an account with one of the large reputable UK or Austrian internet sites who run multi language sites. The large operators also offer multi language telephone betting facilities. In the Americas most of the large operators operate out of the Caribbean and Central American Countries. Here there appears to be fewer events covered, possibly due to the fact that the events are occurring at night. In the Far East, the Australian pari-mutuels are offering betting on Athens events mainly in Athletics and Cycling. As an aside, the data royalties for this betting will be paid to Australian horseracing. SportingBet.Au, Australia s largest sports betting site, was offering markets in 13 sports, at the time of writing, half way through the games. In the remaining important Asian countries the betting is largely illegal and arm of August 2004

2 underground and makes it difficult to judge the exact amount of betting, but screen grabs show that the Hong Kong Jockey Club are offering Olympic football and Ladbrokes Chinese site is offering Athletics betting, see Attachment 1. Also, William Hill spokesman Graham Sharpe quoted the following:- 'For the first time punters worldwide have access to Olympic betting via the internet, and we anticipate that there will be a record turnover as a result. Countries such as Kazakhstan, Lebanon, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Chile, Argentina and the Seychelles have been placing bets via the William Hill site. Punters from Equatorial Guinea have also visited the site, with their interest sparked by the entry of their swimming competitor Eric Moussambani, who completed his first ever 100 metre swim during the Athens tournament. Who is Offering Betting and on What Sports? Nearly every UK bookmaker is offering markets in some of the Olympic events, a screen grab from Oddschecker.com, a betting odds comparison site, shows a typical example, the Men s Athletics 200m in Attachment 2. The most comprehensive coverage for the number of events is Betfair.com which is offering markets in all 28 sports. Betfair is the world s largest betting exchange with around 80% of the exchange market. It is also the largest and most profitable UK internet betting site, larger than both William Hill and Ladbrokes internet sites, which are the 2 nd and 3 rd most profitable internet sites, they are both top 100 quoted UK companies. (Note, most of William Hill and Ladbrokes business comes from high street betting shops where they are also offering Olympic bets). Amount Bet on Each Event Betfair have offered markets in all 28 sporting disciplines including all the sub-disciplines. In sports such as Archery, Fencing and Sailing only small amounts of money have been matched in the order of 100 to 500 per market. The larger established betting markets, including Football, Basketball and Tennis, are attracting steady betting in the early rounds. Where there is a well-established betting market or a high profile event betting has seen considerable activity, Athletics is also very active. Examples of some of the largest markets to date on Betfair are:- Event Amount Matched Athletics - Women s Marathon 1,616,063 Athletics - Men s 100m 1,109,192 Men s Basketball USA v Greece 405,997 Swimming Men s 200m freestyle 314,315 Men s Basketball Gold Medal 272,447 as at 8.00am 24/8/04 Athletics - Women s 5000m 214,505 The betting exchange sites publish running totals of the amount of bets matched on individual markets, as well as the amount matched on the individual participators in the event. Attachment 3 shows the most popular markets that were active on the morning of Tuesday 24 th August. The progress of an athlete through the heats may be seen in the graph and table from the example below for M. Green (winner in Sydney) in the Men s 100m for the whole period from the start of the games to the final result. arm of August 2004

3 The favourite in this race was A. Powell who had 705,021 of matched bets, compared to Green s 127,973 shown in the graph above. The winner, J. Gatlin, only had 14,240 of matched bets out of the total 1,109,192 million. Betting while the Event is in Play A growing phenomenon is the amount of money that is being bet on events while they are in progress. The most dramatic example of this is the Women s Marathon which is ideally suited to this. The market became very active when the favourite, Paula Radcliff, started to falter. The betting before the start of the race accounted for only 70,841 of matched bets, while the final total matched by the end of the race was 1,616,063. At the 19km mark 557,088 had been matched of which 556,078 or 96.5% was on Radcliff and all was going to plan. Then things started to go wrong for the favourite around the 22km mark. The graph below shows how the odds started to swing dramatically until she finally faltered 45 minutes later when she was clearly in serious trouble and the odds went out for the last time. Also note that virtually no money was matched on M. Noguchi until the drama unfolded over half way through the race and she ended up having 578,693 matched by the end of the race. This figure for Noguchi is the amount you would normally see in a competitive Premier League or European Champions League football match where the lead changes several times. This comparison demonstrates the significant level of betting on this race. arm of August 2004

4 22km into the race 45 minutes later arm of August 2004

5 Availability of Live Video and Data The availability of live streaming video of several events at the same time enables in-match betting to occur, and with several events occurring at the same time professional gamblers will switch from one event to another with ease. In the UK the sports enthusiast watching on digital TV is able to place a bet on the TV using the interactive red button using the SkyBet service, whilst watching one of 4 live channels broadcast by the BBC. With widescreen TV s, which are now ubiquitous in the UK, especially amongst sports fans, the screen may be easily spilt so the action is not missed, while the betting information is displayed on a separate screen at the side and the bet placed. Surveys show that placing a bet on an event enhances the excitement of watching the event, a fact that horseracing has always known. The screen grabs below show a relatively early stage event, the Cycling men s sprint quarter finals. The betting information from Betfair has been overlaid with the live streaming video from the BBC. Start of the quarter-finals total matched 146 arm of August 2004

6 63 minutes later at the end of the second heats the amount matched has risen to 2,836 The final amount matched at the end of the semi finals was 10,850. Basketball is another sport where the addition of seeing live action as the match unfolds encourages in-match betting, generally if there are no pictures there is no in-match betting. The screen shot below shows the in-match betting on a relatively one-sided men s basketball game between USA and Angola. The streaming video shows the US are 46 v 26 ahead and the amount of money matched 85,113 and the betting all but over for the game while only at the end of the second quarter. The gold medal betting on this event has been steadily climbing and is currently at 272,447 matched with 4 days until the final. As most of the money will not be placed until 20 minutes before the commencement of the final and during the final, the amount of bets matched is highly likely to exceed 1.0 million, especially as the US are fanatical basketball bettors, even though it is illegal in mainland US except Nevada. arm of August 2004

7 Other Betting Outlets Much of the focus of this paper has been on betting exchanges, largely because they publish a great deal of data about the amount of betting on each event. It must be noted this is only a small part of the legal betting market and each event will have much more money placed with conventional bookmakers. Betting exchanges though do attract a very large share of the in- can be running betting as they are designed to immediately react to new bet offers which difficult for the other types of bookmaker outside the very large ones to financially manage. Olympic Integrity Part of the appeal of the Olympics as a betting product is the perceived level of trust that the public have that the bet is a fair one i.e. that the athletes will genuinely be trying to win. However, the higher the levels of betting the more likely that integrity of an Olympic event will be questioned at some point in time. Sports such as UK Football have hot lines to the betting industry so that the bookmakers can report any unusual activity in order that evidence can be gathered so a proper investigation can be conducted. Logo Infringements A lot of effort was put into protecting the IOC intellectual property rights on the internet during t he Sydney and Salt Lake Games, especially the Olympic rings logo. Betting sites were a particular focus with great success in removing the logo during those two events. For Athens a number of betting sites were found during the searching to produce this report that are either using the Olympic rings or the Athens 2004 logo see Attachment 4 for three examples. arm of August 2004

8 Attachment 1 - Examples of Betting Sites offering Bets on Olympics SportingBet Australia the largest Australian sports betting site. arm of August 2004

9 The Hong Kong Jockey Club football betting site arm of August 2004

10 Ladbrokes Chinese language site showing men s 400m Hurdles Final arm of August 2004

11 Australian State Pari-mutuel Sports Tab arm of August 2004

12 Attachment 2 UK and International Bookmakers arm of August 2004

13 Attachment 3 Betting Exchanges arm of August 2004

14 Attachment 4 Logo Infringements Example infringements found on 24 th August 2004 showing Olympic rings on their front page arm of August 2004

15 arm of August 2004

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