More Punters are Placing Bets with Bitcoin at Australia’s Melbourne Cup via 1xBit
Horse racing is a popular sport in Australia and many other parts of the world. And as with any other popular sport, punters are allowed to place their bets and select their favorite horse to win.
With racing season almost at its highest and most rabid, more punters are piling on in the hopes of winning. Some are using the traditional cash lodgments or phoning in their bets. Others are choosing unconventional means of placing and funding their bets.
More punters are actively turning to cryptos –bitcoin mostly- and using them to place their bets at the tracks –virtually, as cryptos aren’t allowed on Australian betting sites and tracks. Many of these punters aren’t resident in Australia and only do so from outside the shores of the country.
This is happening courtesy of the proliferation of gambling sites across the world, making the games available to their subscribers and members. This is making it really difficult for the sports regulatory bodies to track these bets.
Worse still, these bodies are thinking that bets placed with bitcoins can compromise the games’ integrity, resulting in such issues as fixed matches and other illegal activities. Match fixing is a real concern in the sporting world, and has been responsible for the imprisonment of culprits that are found guilty.
Sporting authorities are worried that because of the nature of cryptocurrencies, tracing culprits will be increasingly harder, making it possible for more match fixing incidents and rings to spring up and get away with their crimes.
This concern isn’t just limited to the racing events, it’s a concern for all sporting events in Australia and other parts of the globe. Entire leagues and sporting federations may soon be besieged by bitcoin wielding criminals looking to make a quick buck by betting on sites that allow the use of cryptos.
Many sports regulatory authorities are worried about this rising trend and potential danger it poses. And they aren’t wrong.
Bitcoin’s Anonymous Nature
One of the biggest appeals of bitcoin is its anonymous nature. You may be able to view transactions, wallet histories and the amount of tokens held in any wallet, but you really can’t tell who owns the wallet.
This anonymity and privacy is both a positive and a negative, depending on your stance. For players and punters, this serves as an excellent way to make more money –some betting sites have a funding limit- as they can fund their accounts and play with more money than they ordinarily would be able to if they were using cash.
The regulators on the other hand worry that players can be forced or bribed to throw the game, resulting in match fixing, and have their funds sent to an anonymous wallet that cannot be traced to them.
Sports Lawyer and Academic Catherine Ordway says:
As the use of bitcoins and other cryptocurrencies in sports betting becomes more prevalent, then the risk of match-fixing is heightened,”
Bets that also appear fraudulent may be hard to stop or reject because they are placed anonymously. Their untraceable nature makes betting with bitcoins a thorny issue for regulators and sports gambling watchdogs.
“For those who don't want integrity officers to see their betting, bitcoin adds another cloak of secrecy to it. With bitcoin, there's no access to the identities of the parties involved. It's very unlikely that the casual or weekend punter is going to be involved in this. It's usually people that seek to hide their identity for one reason or another … perhaps people who have access to inside information.” Said Ray Murrihy, Board Member, Responsible Wagering Australia.
However, punters believe they are misjudged and have the freedom to punt using whatever means they chose. They don’t believe that only dishonest people use bitcoin for their betting.
A blogger who goes by the alias Bitedge believes, on the contrary, that bitcoin and match fixing are a match made in heaven.
“It's definitely not an imagined threat. Professional athletes are mostly tech and gambling savvy young men in a career that will stop paying within 10 years. The first time we find out about crypto match-fixing will not be the first or last time that it happens. We can't stop them”
Difficult to Prevent Gamblers from Using Cryptos
The AFL is a very popular fixture on gambling website, and many believe, prone to match fixing incidents if bitcoins are continually allowed to be used to bet on matches.
While some of the options now available to international punters –like next goal- aren’t available locally, there’s little or nothing that the regulatory bodies can do to stop them.
According to league spokesman Patrick Keane,
“The AFL does not have the ability to restrict or stop their operations. The AFL has agreements with Australian-based wagering providers to enable us to track betting options around our sport, but we do not have those relationships beyond Australia.”
Attempts by local bookies to provide bitcoin gambling options have been quashed by the relevant authorities. For instance, the Racing Commission of the Northern Territory spoke strongly against Neds incorporating a bitcoin gambling option, stating that gambling services in the country weren’t allowed
“to receive and pay bets in cryptocurrency such as bitcoin, on the basis of legal advice that suggested that it would not be lawful to do so in the NT”.
Possible Legal Quagmires?
Apart from the anonymity issue, there have been questions about the effectiveness of bitcoin gambling and match fixing legislations. There are currently no provisions for in the Australia n law for this scenario. Ms Ordway, a legal practitioner said
“Australian laws don't specifically refer to bets placed on Australian sporting events using cryptocurrencies, from here or elsewhere, and it makes sense to review the laws to determine whether they should specifically refer to this new technology. But an argument could certainly be made that any form of corruption of an Australian sporting event, or element of an event, that impacts on a gambling outcome is covered by the national policy [on match-fixing], and relevant state or territory laws.”
However, it is becoming increasingly clear that it’s not being treated as seriously as it should. Maybe if there are multiple events of bitcoin gambling and match fixing, the world will wake up to the possibility of these threats. For now,
“It's a difficult one. There's no real easy solutions, other than that sports need to be on tap with the intelligence agencies … and try to be alert to where this danger is.” Said Mr Murrihy.