Betting, Pakistan, Murder

Should Bloomberg be allowed to pontificate on cricket betting? I am not talking about the Mayor of New York.

Here is a report I came across in Bloomberg.

Woolmer's Murder Shows India Must Allow Betting: Andy Mukherjee

By Andy Mukherjee

March 29 (Bloomberg) -- This year's Cricket World Cup, overshadowed by the still-unsolved murder of Pakistan coach Bob Woolmer in his Jamaican hotel room, has brought the 400-year-old game into disrepute.

The police are investigating the possibility, among others, that Woolmer was murdered by an illegal betting syndicate, which may have feared he would blow the whistle on some unscrupulous players who purposely lose matches.

It's possible that Woolmer's death had nothing to do with match-fixing. Even then, the very suspicion that it was a mafia hit should be worth considering.

Billions of dollars of advertising budgets are riding on cricket's credibility. The powerful financial incentive to tamper with the results has to be eliminated.

This incentive exists because of a glaring shortcoming: India and Pakistan, the two countries that drive both the passion and the business of cricket, don't have legal betting markets.

Pakistan can't have them for religious reasons.

India, however, should allow professional bookmakers to price sporting outcomes.

Until that improvement takes place, mobsters will keep collecting bets through illegal bookies from Mumbai to Kolkata. And they will keep running the business according to their core competence, which is to try to control some results by bribing or intimidating players.

From Covert to Overt

If India didn't play cricket, ESPN Star Sports would never agree to pay $1.1 billion for the rights to telecast the next eight years of international matches.

Similarly, if India drives out the Mumbai-Dubai-Karachi mafia from cricket betting by legalizing the practice, integrity may yet return to the game.

According to reports in the Indian media, bets totaling $1.4 billion were placed on a single match in this World Cup: the contest that India unexpectedly lost to Bangladesh.

As long as a big chunk of this money is being collected by shadowy, crime networks, there's a powerful incentive for them to rig matches and perhaps even commit murder.

The idea should be to encourage legitimate bookmakers and get the Securities and Exchange Board of India to regulate them.

Once the underworld loses its monopoly power, its henchmen would stop hanging around competition venues looking for players to manipulate. The taxes collected from legitimate gambling could be spent on nurturing new sporting talent.

A Worsening Headache

Match-fixing isn't new to cricket.

Ever since the police in New Delhi released transcripts of taped conversations between players and bookies in 2000, three former national captains -- South Africa's Hansie Cronje, India's Mohammad Azharuddin and Pakistan's Salim Malik -- have been banned for life on bribery charges. Cronje died in a plane crash in 2002.

What is different now is the exponential growth in recent years -- in countries where gambling on cricket is legal -- of sophisticated derivative products built around underlying ``assets,'' such as runs scored by a batsman.

One such product, which also exists in equities and foreign- exchange markets and is becoming increasingly popular in cricket, is ``spread-betting.''

It's a double-edged sword. It masks traces of willful underperformance by players, while simultaneously magnifying the potential loss to innocent bettors from such wrongdoers.

Spread-Betting

IG Group Holdings Plc, a U.K. betting company, reported that revenue from sports spread-betting rose to 4.7 million pounds ($9.2 million) in the six months through November. The 21 percent growth from a year earlier was boosted by the soccer World Cup.

In spread-betting, a bookmaker such as Cantor Index Ltd. or Sporting Index Ltd. in the U.K. says it expects a particular batsman to score between, say, 50 runs and 55 runs.

If you wager, based on the batsman's past form or your divine intuition, that it's too low, you buy the contract at 55 at, say, 5 pounds per run. You make an initial margin payment. This, however, isn't the only money you can lose.

If the batsman scores just 5 runs, you'll pay 250 pounds, or 55 minus 5 runs multiplied by 5 pounds. Leverage amplifies both the gains and the losses on a small amount of capital.

Rigging an entire match isn't easy. At least several key players have to agree to do it. There's a high chance that someone in the team will come to know and expose his recruiters. For a crooked player, it's much safer to short one's own performance in the spread-betting market.

Transparency

``If there's any match-fixing now, it's not in throwing matches,'' Imran Khan, a former Pakistan cricket captain, told Sky Sports News. ``It's probably with players being involved in spread-betting. That is much more difficult to catch.''

A transparent, regulated spread-betting market in India with an efficient margining system and strict ``know-your-client'' norms for bookmakers will be the way forward.

Players, who are prohibited from punting regardless of whether they are participating in a match, might still be tempted to take a wager in a legal market using someone to front the trade.

But if Indian bettors embraced sporting derivatives as seriously as they have financial ones -- India's National Stock Exchange is the world's largest bourse for single-stock futures by number of contracts -- both the game and the players' conduct would be under tremendous scrutiny.

Team selectors would be able to weed out players based on evidence of systematic underperformance.

A flawed market is ruining cricket's credibility; a better one may help the sport reclaim its glory.

(Andy Mukherjee is a Bloomberg News columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.)

To contact the writer of this column: Andy Mukherjee in Singapore at amukherjee@bloomberg.net .

1. How does Woolmer's murder show that India must legalise betting?

2. Why this hurry to link Woolmer's murder with India's legal system?

3. Andy clearly understands how lucrative spread betting is and how so wonderful fixing it is?

4. Andy says Pakistan cannot legalise betting because Islam doesn't allow to legalise betting. If Muslims of Pakistan punt, bet, fix - going against the Islamic principles, what has government of India got to do with it?

5. House of Lords rejected UK government proposals for a super-casino in Manchester and a series of 16 smaller casinos across the UK. Why?

6. Andy Mukherjee, there is fixing in the stock market as well. (Some call it correction!)

7. The problem is not with India not legalising betting, the problem is with some nations refusing to arrest criminals and hand them over to India.

8. Fixers are criminals. Period.

9. WTF does this bloomberg columnist know of India or cricket?

10. People who punt large amount of money in Spread Betting are the ones with 'illegal funds' - 'black money'. What makes Andy think that these people would put black money in a legalised betting system, only to be caught by the Tax sleuths?

11. The thriving Hawala market in India is a testimony that Black Money exists. Look at the booming realty markets of this world, including the one in Spain - it is evident that there is too much of cash - black cash - that hasn't gone through the tax system.

12. Is money laundering something that Andy or bloomberg doesn't know of? Even if it is the columnist's personal opinion, bloomberg has a responsibility.

13. As long as people try to evade the tax folk, even if there are legal betting whorehouses in India, black money will always flow through a Hawala network of bookies.

14. As betting is illegal, not many people indulge in cricket betting in India. If you make it legal, they will first get a taste of it through the legal centres, and then slowly get trapped into the illegal ones.

15. If the Police in some countries are not competent enough to put the criminal gang behind bars, the answer is not to legalise crime, or facilitate the growth of it.

16. Legalising betting in India will help illegal betting syndicates in the long run - simply because of the huge amount of 'black money' available in the market.

17. Once upon a time, terrorism in Punjab was like an infectious disease. The religious groups in Punjab were filled with criminal elements. Through a painful process, Punjab got rid of the criminal elements - today there isn't even a hint of terrorism.

18. There was a time when Bollywood was literally run by the Mafia. Things have changed now, even if it is 1%.

19. The state has to succeed in cracking down on crime, putting away criminal gangs. De-criminalising the society and then the world of cricket will take a lot of political will, and a responsible media that exposes criminal activities.

20. As long as some countries provide a safe haven to wanted terrorists and criminals - these problems will not go away.

Andy Mukherjee should have had the balls to write, "Woolmer's Murder shows Pakistan must arrest criminals." Like it or not, Andy has to admit and accept that it is the Pakistan coach who got murdered. And he also has to admit that Pakistan has provided a safe haven to the likes of Dawood and Osama bin Laden.

The US government has Dawood in their most wanted list. How difficult is it for Prezzy Democracy Musharraf to get hold of Dawood? All he has to do is to call Javed Miandad and ask him to provide the answer.

A flawed market is ruining cricket's credibility; a better one may help the sport reclaim its glory.

Media organisations like Bloomberg and columnists like Andy should stop kidding and be socially responsible. If you don't have the balls to ask those 'difficult questions' - then please don't talk about cricket. It is not cricket that is facing a credibility crisis. It is the corruption in Pakistan that needs to be addressed.

It is easy to blame the faceless market. For the likes of Andy, it is so difficult to name and shame the Pakistani government.

By the way, Pakistan has been trying to plant stories in the media.


According to reuters:

Pakistan cricket board officials suspect that the death of coach Bob Woolmer was due to natural causes and that the Jamaican police acted hastily by declaring it a murder.

A senior official of the board, who asked not to be identified, said they had received information that there could have been mistakes in the first autopsy on Woolmer's body.

"We believe that the autopsy by the pathologist may have had error counts and they (police) are now considering having a second autopsy to confirm the cause of death," the official told Reuters on Wednesday.

"The feedback we have got is there are some contradictions in the version of events after Woolmer's body was found unconscious. But we will get a clearer picture after our manager briefs the board on what took place there," he said.
How could the manager know for sure "what took place was a murder or natural death?" A very interesting angle that one. Now that the 'manager' is back in Pakistan, do the Pakistanis know how Woolmer died or who killed him?
The suggestions from Pakistan of a natural death were dismissed later on Wednesday by the policeman leading the investigation in Kingston, Jamaica.

"I think that we should stick with people who were involved in the post mortem, the pathologist, and you know that he has actually released a statement or a report which has given a cause of death," deputy commissioner Mark Shields said.

"And that is quite clear and that's why we're treating this as a murder investigation. It will stay as a murder investigation," he told a news conference on Wednesday.
Here is another:

Deputy Police Commissioner Mark Shields on Wednesday rejected media reports that a second autopsy was planned amid doubts about the cause of death, saying the facts collected so far indicate that Woolmer was strangled in his hotel room.

“I’m pretty confident based on the information that is in front of me, but nothing in this line of work is 100 percent,” Deputy Police Commissioner Mark Shields told The Associated Press in an interview.
Why is Pakistan trying its best to distance itself from the murder of its national cricket coach?

Again, Pervez Mir made a statement that Pakistani players have been given a clean chit, only to be 'exposed' by the police chief Mark Shields.
Speaking to the BBC, Mr Shields rejected earlier comments by Pakistani team spokesman Pervez Mir suggesting team members were in the clear.

"That's a pretty inaccurate statement, because nobody at this stage can be ruled out of the inquiry," he said.
Why the hell is Pakistani officials causing more confusion by providing inaccurate information?

Pakistan refuses to arrest criminals responsible for murdering hundreds in the Mumbai bomb blasts. More than what India should legalise or not legalise, Pakistan should embrace a legal system that punishes criminals and not protects criminals.

Take a look at this report

Pakistan Team Not involved in Match Fixing: Nasim Ashraf
Pakistan Times Sports Desk

ISLAMABAD: Resigned Chairman of Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) Dr. Nasim Ashraf has once again said that no official or player of Pakistan cricket team was involved in the murder of coach Bob Woolmer.

He said that if some one speculates such news than he is not only the enemy of Pakistan cricket but also the enemy of Pakistan.
Without knowing who murdered Woolmer, how can anyone be certain of who didn't?

This Pakistani jingoism looks more like a pathetic smokescreen at the moment. There is no need for such statements. Let the law take its own course. If at all, Pakistan needs to feel ashamed that the Jamaican legal system and law officers are far better than what it is in Pakistan.

I sincerely wish no player or official is directly or indirectly involved in the murder. If there is... then it is going to damage the game a great deal.

Pakistan has a responsibility to help find the murderer. Pakistan's problem is -that the state has been in bed with criminals for too long.

3 comments :

  1. Excellent words on football spread betting. Any idea what other sport spread betting has good chances of winning?

    ReplyDelete
  2. I enjoy betting on sports and normally do alright but struggle with sport spread betting i really can t predict scores! However i have noticed that 0 – 0 draws are prominent in football and rugby games normally a try or penalty in it! So occasionally ill have a bit of a go at online spread betting just see if i can guess more then anything!

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  3. I'm always gambling at the best UK online casinos because of the regulation and reputation in the UK.

    ReplyDelete