At a time when the integrity of sports wagering is being closely monitored in this country, a troubling incident has occurred in England. A portly backup goaltender in Sutton United’s Football Association (FA) Cup clash with Arsenal took to chomping on a meat-pie during the contest, perhaps so friends could cash a bet on a proposition offered by Sun Bets.
The bookmaker who also sponsored Sutton’s shirts for the night, was offering 8-1 on 46-year-old reserve goalkeeper Wayne Shaw to be shown on television eating in the dugout during the game.
A former British sports official seems to be especially concerned about “in-game” wagering, a relatively new and growing betting opportunity in Nevada, but a longstanding and very popular betting option in Europe.
Former British sports minister Richard Caborn has called gambling within sport a “serious problem” as Shaw has quit the team, and FA and government investigations into the incident have begun.
Caborn said while discussing gambling within sports on BBC Radio 5 Live, “It is a serious problem. People are jesting about it, particularly the incident the other night, but there’s a very serious question underlying this, and the responsibility of the gambling industry itself.”
He continued, “It’s not just football, we’ve seen what’s happened in cricket, in snooker. You can (make in-game wagers) in many sports. This is an area of some concern about the integrity of sport. If we are going to see the central point, as an ex-sports minister, I would be saying, the integrity of sport is absolute – it should not be compromised.
He added, “We’ve seen that, whether it’s been in anti-doping, now gambling – you don’t have to throw the result, but you are creating a situation which [sic] is not fair on the playing field.”
Shaw admitted after the match he was aware of the proposition.
The FA announced last week it is launching an inquiry to determine whether Shaw breached its gambling regulations. “We are investigating to establish whether there has been any breach of the FA rules relating to betting,” an FA spokesperson said.
Britain’s Gambling Commission has confirmed its own investigation into the incident to decide whether Sun Bets had violated licensing requirements by offering such a bet.
Sun Bets reportedly tweeted after the game that they had paid out a “five-figure sum” on a bet that Shaw would eat a pie in the dugout. National sports columnists are noting that English football has never done enough to keep the gambling industry at arm’s length and Sun Bets is a new player in the industry and was obviously seeking to garner publicity for itself.
There’s an important lesson to be learned by Nevada bookmakers. That is: be ever vigilant with regards to in-game wagering, and all propositions for that matter. The wacky Super Bowl props that have become so prevalent over the years often get lots of publicity, but are always carefully worded and always well thought out.
Local bookmakers meet for hours and hours parsing each word to make sure nearly all the propositions are decided on the field of play. Although the length of the National Anthem, among other propositions, has become a Super Bowl betting staple usually taken with low limits, it may be time to re-examine these types of wagers. If in doubt, the required rule of thumb is to ask Nevada Gaming Control Board first.
Sun Bets certainly crossed a line by taking wagers on something that may or may not happen on the sidelines. It’s hard to imagine any Nevada bookie pulling a publicity stunt like this. Bookmaking is a serious business.
With sports betting under intense national scrutiny and the various leagues seriously considering ending their opposition to sports wagering, Nevada bookmakers would do well to be as careful as possible to avoid any kind of incident. Any kind of scandal right now, even something as dumb as Sun Bet’s possible collusion with goalie Shaw, would be a major setback for those hoping to see national sports wagering here in the near future.