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Betting Practices Among Players in Portuguese Championships: From Cultural to Illegal Behaviours

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Abstract

The growth of the online sports betting market has generated new risk areas and threats to sport integrity, such as match-fixing. In recent years, institutional concern to fight against the phenomenon has been intensified and a set of countermeasures has been adopted. One of the most widely implemented measures to protect integrity in sport is to ban athletes and sports players from betting on the competitions in which they are involved. In some countries, such as Portugal, this practice has become a crime under the new legislation. Despite the legal and sporting restrictions and the prevention programmes carried out for sport institutions to explain the gambling rules, there are many athletes who are putting bets on their own competitions and even in their own games. Through interviews with key informant actors and ethnographic fieldwork, this article describes betting patterns among sports actors in Portugal and explains the perceptions and incentives that lead them to bet in their own sports, competitions and games. The results show different conceptions of integrity between the normative discourse on legal and sport governance institutions and sports actors’ opinion, essentially, the premise that suggest a direct link between betting on one’s own games and manipulation of these games. In some cases, betting in one’s own games helps to strengthen fair play values. However, the spreading of online betting, together with the perception of inefficient controls in the implementation of sporting and legal regulations, creates opportunity structures for fixing matches and taking financial profit though gambling activities.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Betting-motivated corruption includes three practices linked to the intentional manipulation of competitions, results or aspects of a match (Boniface et al. 2012): (1) match-fixing (manipulation of the outcome of a match to support a bet), (2) spot-fixing (staging a certain aspect of a sporting contest to support a bet), and (3) the misuse of insider information (intentional misuse of insider information to gain advantage in the betting market). For further explanations see Gorse and Chadwick (2011), Anderson (2014), Lastra et al. (2018).

  2. 2.

    See art. 4 do Decreto Lei N.º 66/2015 e do Decreto Lei N.º 67/2015.

  3. 3.

    These issues have been verified with evidence collected in two previous projects funded by the European Commission through its programme Erasmus + Sport: Anti Match-Fixing Top Training (AMATT, 2017-2019) and Training for Protected Reporting System in Professional and Grassroots Sport (T-PREG, 2018-2020).

  4. 4.

    See for instance: SportAccord eLearning (https://www.ifmamuaythai.org/ifma-initiatives/integrity-sportaccord-e-learning-program/); Fix the Fixing educational tools (https://fixthefixing.eu/ftftool/); IOC Integrity eLearning platform (https://www.olympic.org/integrityelearning/); INTERPOL eLearning program (https://www.interpol.int/ipsgapp/integrityinsport/elearning/module01/index.htm?l=en&iid=welcome). For a critical analysis of the hegemonic anti-match-fixing narrative, see Moriconi (2018).

  5. 5.

    Law 73/2014.

  6. 6.

    Portugal was 1 of the first 3 countries in ratified the Council of Europe Convention. For more information, see Moriconi and Almeida (2019a, b).

  7. 7.

    Information offer by the Integrity Department of the Olympic Committee of Portugal.

  8. 8.

    Information gathered through non-participant and participant intervention in COP’s integrity training developed in 2017 and 2018.

  9. 9.

    “Barton Claims 50% Of Footballers Are Betting on Matches”, Sabotage Times, 2018, https://sabotagetimes.com.

  10. 10.

    Official sport bets of the National Lottery.

  11. 11.

    Jake Lambourne, “Barton´s Ban Reduced”, The Sun, 2017, www.thesun.co.uk.

  12. 12.

    In Portugal, this practice is called the suitcase game (o jogo da mala). Club X offers a financial incentive to Club A if it beat or draw Club B, who is, in fact, the direct competition of Club X (for the championship, title, promotion and/or relegation).

  13. 13.

    “Michael Chopra reveals football’s gambling problem”, Independent, 2013, www.independent.co.uk.

  14. 14.

    https://tribunaexpresso.pt/football-leaks/2018-11-20-Como-Mao-enredou-o-Atletico-na-teia-dos-jogos-combinados.

  15. 15.

    Despite all institutional sectors interviewees agreeing that Portugal have one of the best legal frameworks for fighting against corruption (Moriconi and Almeida 2019a), many empathize the lack of means to effectively put it in practice. The district attorney general of Lisbon, Amadeu Guerra, has publicly warned that there is a lack of magistrates and technological resources to investigate (Lusa 2019).

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Acknowledgements

Authors would like to thank the European Association of Studies of Gambling (EASG) for awarded César de Cima a Gambling Research Fund for PhD candidates that allow his research for this work and for the important inputs of some of its member during international workshops. This publication was also supported with funding from the strategic programme of the Centro de Estudos Internacionais ISCTE-Instituto Universitário de Lisboa (with the reference UID/CPO/03122/2019). Preliminary research was developed in the framework of the international project Training for Protected Reporting System (T-PREG), funded by European Commission Programme Erasmus + Sport (590593-EPP-1-2017-1-PT-SPO-SCP). The authors thanks all the informants that were interviewed. Their insight information was crucial for this research. They also want to thank the anonymous reviewers for their useful comments on early drafts of this paper. At different stages, Steve Guilbault helped with the English language revising and editing. The contents of this article reflect only the view of the authors.

Funding

European Association of Studies of Gambling (EASG) awarded a Gambling Research Fund for PhD candidates to César de Cima.

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Correspondence to Marcelo Moriconi.

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Authors have conducted their research in accordance with principles detailed by professional associations and treaties other than the World Medical Association Declaration of Helsinki such as the International Sociological Association’s (ISA) Code of Ethics.

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Moriconi, M., de Cima, C. Betting Practices Among Players in Portuguese Championships: From Cultural to Illegal Behaviours. J Gambl Stud 36, 161–181 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10899-019-09880-x

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Keywords

  • Match-fixing
  • Crime
  • Sport betting
  • Portugal
  • Gambling
  • Cultural practices