Betting Mafias and Match Fixing Come to Lebanon

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Lebanon's Ahmad Zreik reacts after missing a scoring opportunity during 2014 Brazil World Cup qualifying soccer match against South Korea in Goyang, north of Seoul 12 June 2012. (Photo: Reuters - Lee Jae-Won)

By: Charbel Krayem

Published Tuesday, October 30, 2012

As Lebanon comes up in the world of soccer, illegal betting networks have expanded into local sports and match fixing is on the rise.

Illegal betting and match fixing in soccer are hardly new phenomenons. But with the rise of internet gambling and the difficulties of monitoring what has become a global game, the problem is spreading beyond soccer powerhouses like Brazil, Germany and Italy and is affecting even marginal leagues – including Lebanon’s.

The recent match fixing scandal in Zimbabwe illustrates the extent of the problem.

The scandal was exposed a few days ago and lead to the expulsion of 15 players, coaches and administrative staff – including the CEO of the national football league and the coach of Zimbabwe’s national team – based on their involvement in fixing two friendly matches in 2007 and 2009, among other charges.

The Zimbabwe affair demonstrates that gambling networks and match fixing mafias are expanding the scope of their activities and now operate wherever they can find loose regulation and opportunities to make big profits.

Responding to the rise in illegal gambling, Europe has imposed strict oversight this year on the millions of bets placed with the 300 to 400 legal agents that operate in Europe.

Bets are placed on nearly 31,000 matches per year, 1,900 of which are directly related to the European championship cup, while others are related to national leagues that operate under UEFA, Europe’s main football association.

So far, 250 matches were proven to have been exposed to tampering, leading to the arrest of many players and administrative staff, some of whom were not directly involved but had information about what was happening and did not notify authorities.

Interpol reports that somewhere between $300 and $500 billion dollars a year is spent on sports betting, mostly on soccer matches. Internet betting has made gambling on sports much easier over the last few years.

Asia is becoming a major market for this kind of activity, with nearly 15,000 betting websites specializing in 300 kinds of bets that can be placed from anywhere in the world.

Such betting is not restricted to who wins the game, but often includes the number of corner kicks in the first half, or the name of the first player to score, for example.

The most well-known Asian fixing networks, estimated at around 20, operate out of Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, and Thailand.

These networks now rival their European counterparts in scope, sophistication and profits, as the biggest scandals uncovered over the past few years demonstrate.

These mafias are able to tamper with international, friendly, or official games in almost any Asian country, particularly in light of the fact that oversight in Asia is not as strict as it is in Europe.

These networks now have expanded operations into Lebanon, which has recently become more recognized in international soccer.

Local league matches and the national team’s games abroad have been appearing on international betting forums and illegal betting agents are now operating in a number of areas in Lebanon.

Informed sources told Al-Akhbar that some of these Asian networks have agents operating in Lebanon, including current and former players as well as coaching and administrative staff.

These agents use their close connections to the players to influence the matches. According to these sources, some local and international matches involving Lebanon have already been fixed.

Word of this has reached the local football association by way of officials abroad, who are waiting for the right time to expose the “ticking bomb” that has been planted in Lebanese football.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

Comments

This is a hard reality that exist in the market of sports betting. Millions are made with just a single boxing match fix and more so it it was a MLB, NCAA and other major leagues games.

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