The problems and causes of match-fixing: are legal sports betting regimes to blame?

Publication Date12 Mar 2018
AuthorMinhyeok Tak,Michael P. Sam,Steven J. Jackson
SubjectHealth & social care,Criminology & forensic psychology
The problems and causes of match-fixing:
are legal sports betting regimes to blame?
Minhyeok Tak, Michael P. Sam and Steven J. Jackson
Purpose Sport match-fixing has emerged as a complex global problem. The purpose of this paper is
twofold. First, it critically reviews how match-fixing is typified as a policy problem. Second, it advances an
analysis of the legal framework and regulatory system for sports betting as a causal source for routinized
Design/methodology/approach This study extracts and synthesises (cross-national) materials from
policies, media releases and scholarly works on the subject of match-fixing and sports betting. The analysis is
framed by the contrasts between rational choice and sociological institutionalist approaches.
Findings Match-fixing is typically attributed to: criminal organisations and illegal sports betting; vulnerable
individuals; and failure of governance on the part of sports organisations. Each cause holds assumptions of
utility-maximising actors and it is argued that due consideration be given to the fundamental risks inherent in
legal sports betting regimes.
Research limitations/implications Match-fixing in sport is a recurrent social problem, transcending
national boundaries and involving a wide range of actors and, sporting disciplines and levels of competition.
Within such an environment, it may matter little how strong the incentive structures and education
programmes are, when betting on human beings is both normatively and cognitively advanced as a value and
institutionally permitted as a practice.
Originality/value This paper argues that legal betting regimes paradoxically contribute to routinised
match-fixing because: for betting customers there is no qualitative, ethical difference between legal and illegal
operators; and legalisation serves to normalise and legitimate the view of athletes as objects for betting
(like cards or dice).
Keywords Match-fixing, Betting, Legal gambling framework, Legal sports betting,
Regulatory system for sports betting, Routinised match-fixing
Paper type Research paper
You can bet on it: Where theres sports, theres gambling. And where there is gambling, frequently
there is cheating (Sumner, 2013).
You cant ban betting. Betting is a huge part of our culture [] We needed Toto and football to raise
money for the sport Sepp Blatter, the former President of FIFA (FIFA, 2005).
Over the last decade, betting-related match-fixing in sports has become a recurrent social
problem, transcending national boundaries, sporting disciplines, levels of competition and
involving a wide range of actors such as athletes, coaches, referees and officials (Carpenter,
2012; Gokhale, 2009; Hill, 2010; Villeneuve and Aquilina, 2016)[1]. Match-fixing is considered to
be a threat to the very basis of sport because it artificially removes the fundamental property of
sports competition the uncertainty of process and outcome (Boniface et al., 2012;
Hosmer-Henner, 2010; McNamee, 2013; Syzmanski, 2001). Since sport, as both a cultural
institution and an entertainment commodity, is premised on the genuine commitment to pursue
victory within the context of uncertainty, fixing a match betrays a public who have given their
allegiance and support (Forrest, 2012a). Furthermore, the occurrence of match-fixing can
undermine the symbolic values, norms and ideals that sports are supposed to represent in
Minhyeok Tak is a PhD
Candidate, Michael P. Sam is
an Associate Professor and
Steven J. Jackson is a
Professor, all at the School of
Physical Education, Sport and
Exercise Sciences, University
of Otago, Dunedin,
New Zealand.
DOI 10.1108/JCRPP-01-2018-0006 VOL. 4 NO. 1 2018, pp.73-87, © Emerald Publishing Limited, ISSN 2056-3841
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