Saturday, 4 April 2015

Illegal Gamblng and a ridiculous idea!



Match-fixing has always been linked to illegal gambling for two main reasons. Firstly, those facilitating the transfer of illegal bets are best placed and willing to indulge in match-fixing. Secondly, often players or officials who want to bet (in Asia or fearing risk of discovery) must bet through illegal channels which in turns puts them in a position to be exploited down the road. But the problem of illegal gambling is here to stay forever (yes, forever), unless all countries legalise, Even then, illegal bookmakers offer better odds, higher limits, payouts in much-wanted cash and they protect anonymity as a brucie-bonus. 

The emergence of bitcoin bookmakers, whatsapp bookmaking, the ‘hawalah network’ of payout (often referred to as contra) shows the innovative lengths those will go to subvert the archaic anti-gambling laws which often serve to line the pockets of the few in government rather than the general population (Hong Kong Jockey Club excluded). Banning IP addresses (as has happened across South-East Asia), illegal gambling crackdowns (conveniently before major football championships) and banking restrictions have done little to stem the tidal wave. Nay, illegal gambling is on the rise, potentially correlated with the rise in gambling itself. 

To show you how easy it is to navigate around the obstacles presented above, consider the following scenario. You make the acquaintance of a local bookmaker through a friend’s introduction or down the local casino or snooker hall (everyone gambles in a snooker hall). He gives you his number and tells you a website to look at when you want to place a bet. In the message you simply quote ‘1, 1, 100’. This refers to ‘selection 1, home, £100’. This isn’t exactly Enigma (quite a good film but I did want to punch Benedict Cumberbitch) and more complex codes can be sent. In reality you don’t even need a code as the NSA aren’t prioritising your bet over ISIS. Anyway, having won your bet, you meet in the park the following day and collect your winnings.

‘This is not scalable’ you cry. Of course not. Your local bookmaker is hardly going to go to the park every day to settle your measly bet; but the system works. And the commodity the ‘dealer’ is carrying is legal - cash. This system, though a tad more intricate, is how bookmaking works across South East Asia. Throw in a First Cagayan license from the Philippines, Skype customer service, casino chip payout, cash being moved into Macau and we have a business. Occasionally the business takes a hit - bad credit, employees locked up or premises raided but life goes on. It has been like this for decades and that’s without thinking outside the box. So here we go.
 
I recently thought of a way to operate a wholly illegal bookmaker, to the letter of the law, perfectly legally. Whilst someone is free to copy my idea, I wouldn’t advise it. Do it in Hong Kong and a law will materialise to stop you; do it in Thailand and the police will be shaking you down. But the principles show the incredibly difficult task governments have in banning illegal betting.

You are the owner of a pawn shop or electronics store whereby only members can buy (similar to CostCo). A man or woman who fancies a bet ambles into your store and selects an item, conveniently priced at the amount he would like to bet plus an arbitrary cost to cover the store’s costs (a breakeven sale where the customer does in fact take something home). As the transaction is made, the customer mentions a bet he happens to fancy. ‘I quite like the three dog in race two’. A store worker places the selection on a twitter feed or even a public blog. It’s just a customer giving his tip, you know.

If the selection loses, the bettor is not seen until their next bet. At least they bought something with their losses eh? If they win, there are many payout options! 1) store credit is given to purchase items which can then be sold back to the shop for cash. This sale of goods is perfectly reasonable with many pawn and electronic shops buying goods. 2) the store operates a members’ raffle and it conveniently is awarded to that winning bettors’ account (this can happen many many times per day) 3) the item originally bought is returned (it’s faulty sir). Cash is awarded but mistakenly extra cash is returned.

All of the above is completely ridiculous. But the books wouldn’t be difficult to cook. And yet, this is in broad daylight in a first world country with a twitter feed revealing the bets. Now consider a bookmaker operating in a closed ghetto in Jakarta, a casino in Macau with a hundred persons on its payroll, anonymous VPNs, encrypted calls, fake money, bitcoin (what the fuck really is bitcoin), more runners than a marathon and no worldwide government agency interesting in illegal gambling. What do you have? The potential for mass organised illegal gambling. We are in fact already there now. In five more years, there’ll be robot couriers with your payout.

Friday, 29 August 2014

FOUL!

This year match-fixing has dominated the headlines and, apart from a brief cricketing detour, it's been all football. Incredibly, this is the fourth high profile book on match-fixing in football to come out within a year. We've had journalist Declan Hill's 'The Insiders Guide to Match-fixing', ESPN's Brett Forrest's 'The Big Fix', match-fixer Wilson Raj Perumal's 'Kelong Kings' and now Singaporean journalist Zaihan Mohamed's 'FOUL'. For those that don't know (as I don't think he'd admit it himself) Zaihan is potentially the most informed journalist on match-fixing in the world. In fact, he is the only journalist that match-fixers and those within the premiere match-fixing criminal organisation want to speak to. Famously, Wilson Raj Perumal wrote letters to Zaihan to clear up facts about some of the fixing going down; Zaihan then published them as-is.

FOUL was published just before the World Cup to take advantage of the furor surrounding match-fixing leading up to the competition which trumps all others in terms of betting opportunities. Considering one can bet up to $2bn per match, every player and official now becomes 'bribeable'.

FOUL is a well-written, easy to follow account of match-fixing - from its inception to now - with a strong focus on Singapore. Whilst many other books have covered Calcioscommesse in detail or Robert Hoyzer, Zaihan only writes about his topic of expertise, Singaporean match-fixing. The three main characters are: his admirer, friend or muse Wilson Raj Perumal - the celebrity match-fixer; Dan Tan - the man no one knows nothing about;  and, the original Kelong King Rajendran 'Pal' Kurusamy.

Known as Ah Blur and currently residing in one of Singapore's notoriously horrid prisons, the mystery that is Dan Tan is less so after reading FOUL. Facts are given, investigations outlined, theories proposed, though in truth we'll never know the real Dan Tan. Why? Because he wants it that way, in stark contrast to his former colleague Wilson and to a lesser extent, Kurusamy.

Zaihan effortlessly flicks between his own involvement in the story (at one point he reveals that Croatians were interested in his flight patterns denoting the level of exposure he was getting with his stories) and the actions of the major players in world match-fixing. He throws out interesting anecdotes I've never heard before (rare in the match-fixing world these days). Like Declan Hill and Brett Forrest, Zaihan has sources within the criminal organisation of match-fixing and changes their names to protect their identity. My guess would be that it wouldn't be difficult to work out the source - it's a small world. In addition, he obtained official interviews with some of the most  curious characters which make the match-fixing world so interesting.One of the most interesting chapters is the 'Fight against match-fixing', which discusses some of the familiar characters involved on the investigation side detailed in other books.

The book ends looking forward to potential fixing (or at least a desire out there for fixing) in the World Cup; Wilson Raj Perumal still brags about his life; football is still corrupt; and, Zaihan's still the man.

Here's the link. Support the man who exposed most of what we know today about the fifth arm of organised crime.

http://www.amazon.com/Inside-Story-Singapore-Match-Fixers/dp/9814342696

Saturday, 9 August 2014

The Dream Sequence

Hi all,

Been a while. Someone reminded me of this the other day and I had to share it. The gambler is a dreamer. Even notorious match-fixer Wilson Raj Perumal couldn't get enough of a buzz from winning millions. Instead he wanted to win tens or even hundreds of millions. This is a fantasy just as hallucinogens do for the wannabe escapist or cocaine does for the under-confident.

I wrote this as an epilogue to Off The Chest but it was removed by my agent. I think some of you will identify with it.

Epilogue

I would like to describe to you a situation which every hardcore gambler experiences at some point in their life. We descend into a dream world particularly during a losing stretch and money is owed. It starts with the purchase of a lottery ticket. We walk to the newsagent with other thoughts in mind but once we hand over that pound or two, everything changes. Personally, I like to lie down and think of nothing else than what I would do with the winnings. This may become slightly awkward as I detail your exact thought process.

I have won 26 million Euros scooping the sole jackpot of a large non-rollover jackpot week. I stare at the numbers checking whether I am dreaming as I have often done before or if this is, in fact, real. Everything is legit - phew - lets get spending. I speak with the lottery agent and confirm I have, indeed, won the jackpot. They insist on assigning a financial adviser but I politely decline. I know how to handle this.

I ask for a cheque which is delivered by courier to my home promptly the next day. Once received I proudly walk into my local HSBC branch and demand to see the manager of the establishment. The receptionist informs me that the manager is busy but after a casual wave of the cheque, a lady appears almost immediately. We proceed to the top floor which is empty apart from a distinguished-looking gentleman. The manager asks if I would like a drink and I opt for a glass of water. I politely ask what HSBC could do for me if I was to deposit such a large amount. She falls over herself explaining the different investment options but ultimately concedes that eventually my money would be best placed with a wealth management specialist. The manager is a nice person and I want her to benefit from a large commission when my money is deposited. I ask, once the cheque has been verified, if there is the possibility of an advance. You may withdraw up to a maximum of £50,000 a day sir. This is the answer I was looking for although I must admit I am slightly surprised. A cashier is called for with instructions to withdraw £50,000 in cash from the safe. The cashier informs the manager that the safe is on time lock (as if she didnt know) and that the money would be ready, once counted, in an hour. I sign the necessary paperwork and withdraw the remaining £20 in my current account and head to a local sushi restaurant. I ask for a pad of paper while waiting for my food and begin to jot down a list of potential purchases. The bill comes to £8.40 but I tip the £12.40 change - its the least (and also the most) I can do.

Back at the bank, I’m handed a brown paper parcel with £50,000 in mint condition 20s and 50s. I immediately hail a cab to the Dorchester Hotel with the world unaware of the money on my person. I walk past several betting shops, but the desire to gamble has completely dissipated.

What need would I have to gamble? I booked a penthouse suite costing £4,000 for the night but this was a mere fraction of my net wealth. £46,000 remains for todays budget and I have every intention of spending the lot. The day is still long as my trusty watch shows 12.32pm. From a room which seems to serve little purpose I phone a well-known recruitment agent. I speak to a lovely lady named Sara - or is it Sarah? - and ask her if there are any personal assistants on their books. My intention is to conduct a series of interviews during the afternoon and choose a PA by the end of the day. I inform Sara of where the interviews are being held (to establish some credibility) before explaining that I need someone exceptionally well presented. This is code for drop-dead gorgeous. I think Sara understands as she points out that she knows one or two ladies who might fit the bill.

I conduct a series of interviews with girls who would not be out of place in a La Senza advert. They are dressed immaculately and all appear suitable. One girl, in particular, stands out. She is dressed in a tight red blouse and skirt revealing legs which should be worshipped. I am not attracted to her in a sexual way - it is more that my status will be elevated having this girl as a secretary. People will assume Im banging her which I may or may not get around to.

And yet I want to help her. She comes from a working class background and never went to university. She worked dead-end jobs for four years and put herself through night school to achieve a number of qualifications some of which were useful to me in this most unique situation. Initially, I introduced myself as a businessman and explained that there are many projects I will be undertaking but as I begin to trust Gemma, I explain the real deal.

Money is no object and I intend to pay her an extortionate salary compared to usual PA jobs. But there is one final test she must pass. I ask her to take out her phone and dial her mother. A lady answers and I briefly explain that I am conducting an interview with her daughter. I pass the phone to Gemma to confirm this is not some kind of hostage situation. I then ask mum to describe her daughter in three words. Beautiful, smart and loyal. This is exactly the answer I wanted to hear. Gemmas relationship with her mother is a close one and this was important for my trust in an unknown. Loving daughters do not steal for their family and do not place them in harms way for the sake of money.

I decide to hire Gemma but hold off from telling her just yet. I invite her to dinner downstairs in the restaurant. I order something simple but expensive, a steak so she does not feel pressured when ordering her meal. Gemma opts for the sea bass.

After the main courses arrive I inform Gemma that she has got the job. She wants to hug someone but instead a wonderful smile and a tasteful fist pump appear to suffice. After desert followed by a round of Bloody Maries, I tell Gemma I expect her at 9am the following morning. Gemma will begin to put my affairs in order but there are certain matters I can take care of myself tonight. I have a friend called Michael who lives in Edinburgh. I know he is struggling with certain payments and there is much I can do to help but straightforward charity is not my modus operandi.

Every gift will be set up by a surprise as I like to see the look on the recipients face. The concierge at the Dorchester has agreed to book a flight to Edinburgh and has already arranged transportation to the airport. I palm him a fifty pound note and make a similar exchange with every person I come into contact with from the doorman, to the baggage handler, to the driver and finally the flight attendant. I’m flying first class and she promises that my glass of champagne will never be left unfilled. I arrive in Edinburgh at nine oclock and hire a limo to Michaels abode armed with a parcel of cash. Michael likes to gamble and although the bundle of cash will last a month or three, I have structured a long-term strategy of payment. My driver rings the doorbell to a run-down flat shortly after which Michael appears. He is instructed to make his way, as he is, to the limo all the while completely unaware of what is about to take place. He finally recognises his old gambling partner but is slow to process the scene before him. I am wearing an immaculate suit as a diamond encrusted Breitling glistens in the dim street lights. We embrace and I tell my first friend that I’ve hit the jackpot. There is a change of clothes for Michael dangling from the hand rail in the car but he can complete the switch from pauper to pimp at the casino.

We arrive at the Grosvenor in the town centre and I hand him the parcel containing £10,000. I inform Michael that this is his bankroll tonight but he may save his money as he pleases. All is not lost if he gambles it all away but I will not be an endless source of income. Michael has a mediocre time of it, finally quitting some £4,000 down. However, the parcel is swiftly topped up after I hit the casino for a £10,000 win after just one hand of Blackjack. I tell Michael that there will be £30,000 waiting for him in his Betfair account but there is one condition - he must buy something long-lasting and expensive and save some money for a rainy day – and there is plenty of those to look forward to in Edinburgh. I leave Michael with new-found hopes and dreams brought about by my money but most importantly by my friendship.  That night, I drift off to sleep empowered by the potential for good this lottery blessing has provided.

Slightly unprofessionally, wearing my dressing gown, I greet Gemma early the next day. There is nothing suggestive about my actions but it’s obvious she feels awkward. I apologise but explain I havent had the time to purchase new clothes. We sit in the lounge area and we begin to discuss how to implement my endless plan of action. Firstly, we decide on a list of purchases and transactions with the leftover money from the bank but, of course, a second instalment of £50,000 has now become available.

Besides the clothes, I desire a reservation for six at Nobu, the finest Sushi establishment in London, complete with limo and driver. The houses and business projects can wait - this dinner will be with my five closest friends on earth. I would like presents for each, specifically tailored to their proclivities. Joe will receive the most expensive present but he does not covet riches. I intend to buy him a house in his beloved Uganda, but tonight £20,000 worth of shares in Queens Park Rangers served as hors d’oeuvres.

Daniel would appear to be difficult to shop for. Again, he does not desire money but certainly enjoys the high life. Recently he has been seeing a Siberian beauty and a romantic trip to Monte Carlo seems appropriate.

Tom is easy to please as he enjoys three things in life. Skunk, boxing and women. It’s certainly difficult to provide all three in one present so I opt for three mini-gifts. For the latter of the gifts, a hooker would certainly have been the easier option but Tom likes a challenge. Instead, we will be flying to the Playboy mansion and there he may try his bizarre chat-up techniques on some thoroughly stupid but beautiful women.

The two Davids have always helped me out over the years and therefore at this early stage in my benevolence £5,000 was more than fair.

The limo collects each and every dinner guest, negotiating the backstreets of North London. There are no empty seats at Nobu and it appears we were fortunate in securing a reservation - maybe the £3,000 card deposit had something to do with it. I explain the news to everyone although the limousine and my deeply suspicious behaviour was enough to arouse suspicion. All of our lives would change in some way, especially mine. I had projects planned which involved them in some way or other and it was up to them to decide how involved they wanted to become. I wanted to get the message across that although money isnt everything, this would be my way of thanking them for their incredible friendship.

As the bulk of the cash becomes available, the preparation for the future begins. Gemma is doing a sterling job buying presents - her work is meaningless but clearly enjoyable. I phone up an old college friend who works at a wealth management company. Euan, I have seven million pounds to invest - what can you do for me old boy? Euan places my money in what he believes is a ‘fairly low-risk mutual fund which he assures me, will yield decent dividends. I trust Euan and go about spending and investing the rest of my fortune safe in the knowledge if I lose every penny, I will still have a nest egg which will last generations.

Imagination is a beautiful thing. Within weeks I have created a company with the assets in place to bring to life my wildest fantasies. I build a gym and fly over two highly rated Colombian boxers speeding up their work permits with proof of a real job here in London. Next, I borrow an idea from a friend and establish the first football stadium with hologram-technology emitting a 3D image in real time. This I believe is the future of mass entertainment paving the way for every fan to watch their favourite team without spending a fortune. Finally, I begin to invest heavily in property in up-and-coming locations. I take on board the advice of experts but essentially trust my instincts.

I am spoken of as the richest person anyone knows, but without the snobbery attached. I am told I know when to flash the cash and when to behave like a regular person. As the years roll by I have markedly improved the quality of life for those who surround me and I’m loved by all. There are no haters in this dream and if they do exist, they quickly vanish into jealous obscurity. My family and their families are provided for and they swell with pride after all I have accomplished. Gambling is no longer needed to fulfil the void in my life as every day is a stroll in the orchards of pleasure. I contently envisage my funeral with my family surrounded by countless people whose lives I have touched before and after the money.

The daydream concludes as I’m slowly dragged back to reality. There is no sudden realisation that my current life is pathetic and contrasts infinitely with the dream. I begrudgingly accept that I am, indeed, penniless but there is always the possibility of riches. After all, the winning numbers will shortly be announced.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

In defence of Football - The scummiest game on earth...Poker!

In defence of Football - The scummiest game on earth...Poker!

All this talk of match-fixing in football and how the game is in disrepute has prompted me to write a defence…or at least point the finger at other sports. There is no question match-fixing exists in football as it exists in many other sports. But is it the sport most corrupted? This blog has detailed match-fixing in other sports such as horse racing but I’ve never covered Poker apart from a small section in Off The Chest (where the hero gets cheated).

Some will argue that Poker is not a sport. Well, it has prize money, it is competitive, there are professionals, it is televised, the playing field is not equal with some possessing skills over another and it has spectators. That sounds like a sport to me.

I could write a book on scams, skulduggery, organised and unorganised crime, drugs and violence in poker but this blog with suffice for now. Also, its main audience don’t want to hear it. But this is a defence of football. I am about to show the level INDIVIDUALS will sink to to profit.

The first ‘cheat’ in the modern day era (old school scams are simply stories of legend with no proof whatsoever) goes by the online name ‘Zee Justin’ aka Justin Bonomo. Essentially what he did went against the rules of the game but was not ‘illegal’ just as match-fixing isn’t in some countries. He worked out a scam that if he registered multiple entries in an online tournament he could ‘dump’ stacks and therefore have the best chance of reaching the top end of the prize ladder. At the time he defended himself with some rather suspect reasoning but I believe has later apologised. Now he is a respectable member of the community and is a large winner on the live scene where you can’t cheat….or so you’d think

Men ‘The Master’ Nguyen’s name is mud in the live poker world. In fact, it’s worse than that. It is believed he is one of the worst scammers in the history of live poker. The most frequent accusation is him using other Vietnamese players (whom he stakes) to dump their stacks to each other or him, to gain an edge. Then there is the story of him starting a fire as a distraction. This then allowed an opportunity to steal stacks of chips to add to other stacks in more high buy in events. There is no hard evidence for this other than extremely well respected people saying they ‘saw it’ or know something about that proves it. Daniel Negreanu for instance.

Erick Lindgren is also known as scum. In fact, people now tell him to his face. His crime? Welching. There is proof of the fact that Erick Lindgren, at one time respected as an excellent professional and Full Tilt Poker representative, scammed many bettors of online high stakes fantasy league competitions, tournament staking deals, loans and more. His excuse? Gambling. Incredibly, he sits at poker tables now with the very money that he owes people and even against those he owes! There are numerous testimonies and even admissions by Lindgren himself of his practices.

One of the classic scams that people do is selling over 100% of themselves in a tournament. A poker player is playing the World Series of Poker for $10,000. He/she sells 200% equity to different colleagues, friends, associates and even to unknowns online. He/she then loses on purpose, pocketing half of the total stake collected. I heard the story of someone doing this, winning the tournament and then running! Amazing if true.

Highstakes poker player Jens Kyllönen had his hotel room broken into and his laptop tampered with for scamming purposes. Only a poker player would know what to do with the information garnered. There are also rumours of cameras being placed in poker players’ hotels/houses so someone can see their cards. This has happened to many, many others. Even if organised criminals use poker players to commit fraud, how is that different from match-fixers using footballers?

Let’s take it to the companies. Many are aware of Ultimate Bet and Absolute Poker cheating or covering it up (depending on what you like to call it). Then there is the story of Full Tilt Poker essentially engaging in major fraud (illegal payments from restricted countries). Many poker websites have or currently are engaging in intricate Ponzi schemes (some good hearted, i.e. they intend to pay back when liquid, and some not so). A poker website holds a pool of money and, like a bank, upon mass withdrawals, should be able to pay their players. But if the site has been stealing money, they cannot do this. Lock Poker cannot pay their players. They have an excuse of course but it’s been going for far too long for anyone to believe them. Some sites don’t even communicate – they just run away, pockets full of cash.

There is a strong rumour of something quite incredible happening in China. I’m hearing that there are warehouses of poker players (online poker is illegal in China), registering with fake bank accounts from Europe and playing together – colluding. Players think they are playing against a Swede, a Brit or an Aussie but really it’s 5 players sharing cards and crushing you. It’s almost impossible to beat 5 players due to card removal and the ‘sandwich’ effect when you have a semi-weak hand.

Serial scammers have ‘cheated’ more times than games have been fixed in football (though of course there have been more poker 'games'/players). And they will continue to do it. There is no regulatory body in charge and no prison time has been given to those involved in specific poker (player) fraud (someone please correct me).

Heard enough? I’ll reel off a list.

Man in Casino keeps cards up his sleeves to use for later occasions; ‘ghosting’ and invention of new screen names to defraud opponents; sharing of accounts to win rake races; looking at people’s cards (come on it’s against the rules!); money-laundering; cheating with proposition bets; lying about tournament entries and pocketing the cash; robbing players on the way home from poker rooms knowing they’ve won; robbery of cardrooms where there is an inside man and much more.

My point is that people are people. If there’s an edge to be had, people will take it (some legally so). But many go further. Where’s there’s money, there’s crime and the stakes in poker are massive. But the stakes in football are even bigger. I’d say football is doing well not to be wholly corrupt! But to be fair, millions is spent on education, monitoring systems, police and of course the wages are higher. A would-be scammer in poker has no need to scam if he’s winning large amounts. I don’t want to give poker a horrendous reputation. There are many honest players playing the game. But if you think for one second there isn’t major corruption in poker, you’re very naïve. Match-fixers have resorted to bribery, coercion and violence to achieve their goals. It’s what you don’t know that’s happened in the poker world that should scare you. No one’s had any reason to check.

Friday, 13 June 2014

Review of The Big Fix by Brett Forrest

So a few weeks back, I blogged a review of Wilson Raj Perumal's 'Kelong Kings'. So it is only right I write about a book that came out just weeks later.

Firstly, let's get this out the way. The Big Fix is the best written book ever released on match-fixing and I've read them all. I even wrote one! Almost every book written previously has usually had a 'catalogue' feel to it - packing the narrative with event after event, story after story; or, in my case, I went for the fully fictionalised story though it mirrored real life. The Big Fix differs in that it follows a character (Chris Eaton) and Brett Forrest's own meetings who navigate through the world of match-fixing. We see it from the outside (looking back through recent history) and then even through the eyes of match-fixer Wilson Raj Perumal. Sometimes, we are simply taken to a restaurant or an office rather than moving from fixed game to fixed game or criminal to criminal. 

I especially like how the evidence is laid bare for the reader to judge the characters. Revealing letters are published without bias. On the one hand, you have Wilson portraying himself as a Robin Hood type character but some of his actions suggest a different side. On the other, Eaton is chasing Wilson for the good of football and sport in general. The book feels like the Movie 'Heat' - Pacino vs. De Niro. And just as one makes this connection, Wilson speaks about the comparison himself. He references the scene in the cafe where the hunter and the prey meet face to face. Thrilling stuff. 

Did we learn anything new from this book? Well, firstly, this is the most up-to-date now-public behind the scenes information on match-fixing and the interpersonal relationships between the major players. Secondly, it references Wilson's future hopes and dreams. And lastly, it gives a 360 degree view of fixing (Perumal), investigation (Eaton and Sportradar) and Federations. 

I've always said there should be a movie on match-fixing. Something like Green Street meets American Gangster. This book (besides Off The Chest :) ) seems to lend itself best to the big screen. It's inevitable. I just hope, like The Sopranos, they use insiders to portray the world of match-fixing correctly.

Get your copy here.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Big-Fix-Match-Fixers-Bringing/dp/0062308076





Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Review of Kelong King

So Wilson Raj Perumal’s memoirs are out. I had to read it as soon as the ebook landed in my inbox. I can’t and won’t comment on the factual content of the book – more on the tone. Wilson portrays himself as a friendly match-fixer but one with a nasty streak. This is exactly the kind of person I tried to give an image of with ‘Cedric’ the match-fixer in Off The Chest (Perumal in mind). This image is hard to buy though. Reading Wilson’s narration of the ‘Hockey Stick’ incident, you’d be forgiven for thinking he was the victim. In fact he plays the victim throughout the book – sometimes justified, sometimes not.

I want to write about the topic which was the basis for Off The Chest. Wilson Raj Perumal is a gambler of the sickest variety. Though the world was his oyster, fixing matches across the globe, he is quite possibly net-down from gambling. How is this possible? In the book he admits to placing extortionate amounts on games it was impossible to fix. Why would anyone bet on games they cannot fix when they can live comfortably forever off the back of matches they can fix? The key is in the adrenalin buzz. At first fixing games is a thrill. Then comes the ego boost of knowing you control a player, a referee, a team or even a country. But when the dust settles and the winnings are collected, the thrill begins to subside. If you know the result already, where is the danger? Wilson began fixing matches for profit. But even if you believe his ‘Robin Hood’ mentality of helping poverty stricken players, in the end, everything was to feed his gambling. He’d get to work but then blow all the profits. Rinse and repeat. As he admits himself, a more intelligent man would have spotted the sharks circling. But a less greedy man would surely have retired years before.

Is this the end of Wilson Raj Perumal? I didn’t read anything that suggested he was remorseful. It is quite incredible how many matches he and his superiors, partners and underlings were able to fix. Over a million fans have watched games in the stadium corrupted by his antics. Tens of millions at home – and for a while, the majority of them never knew what was happening.

This book is reasonably well written and there a considerable number of amusing and interesting stories. My favourite is regarding the coin toss of Nigeria vs Argentina. Knowing they couldn’t bribe Juan Roman Riquelme to allow Nigeria to kick-off, one of players told him that the Nigerians desperately wanted to kick-off due it being a good omen. That way both angles were covered. Argentina won the toss but Nigeria were allowed to kick-off – Riquelme was duped!
The saying honour amongst thieves doesn’t seem to apply in the match-fixing world. There are rip-offs, thefts, framings, ratting, double crosses, violence and even murder. One thing’s for certain – life is never dull.

I recommend people buy this book. I read it in nine hours non-stop.  

It’s about time someone made a football film with match-fixing as the underlying theme. Maybe Wilson can be match-fixer turned consultant or even an actor.  

I would say ‘All hail the Kelong King’. But Perumal gives that title to another. Maybe he’s a modest man after all.



Wednesday, 23 April 2014

The prize/wage to liquidity ratio

I must preface this blog by saying I am not accusing any individual or sport of engaging in match-fixing, On occasion I have referenced very well documented stories.

There are many factors involved in match-fixing not least including personal attributes such as greed which cannot be estimated on a general basis. On any given fixture, the individual or team approached to fix or who have decided to a fix a sporting contest might be rich, poor, risk averse, risk-seeking, in a financial hole or being coerced. But whatever these factors, one thing is for certain and all experts agree on this – as the prize/wage to liquidity ratio grows inversely, the opportunity and the likelihood of match-fixing increases. It is an obvious statement but a footballer earning £300,000 a week might (in this example) in fact be open to match-fixing. But how much would he need to earn? A year’s salary? That would be £15.6 million though there are tax and agent fee considerations. Could someone earning such a wage a) place a minimum of £16 million on a particular market without detection and b) guarantee the fix on his own? The answer is no to both. Most agree a minimum of three players are needed. If they are players of the same earning level, £48 million need now be placed (at odds of 2.0 or higher). It is clear to see this situation is unrealistic and not conducive to match-fixing. So lesser paid people fix more – nothing new here. Maybe. But having a look at certain wages/prize money alongside liquidity, might shed some light on which sports are susceptible to match-fixing.
For the purpose of succinctness, I will focus on three sports: Horse Racing, Darts and Cricket.

Horse Racing


Before we start, match-fixing has always been rife in horse racing. Whether it be tales of incredible scams such as ‘Francasal’ (where one poor horse was switched with a speedy lookalike to win bets) or numerous recent reports of race fixing in England, we know fixing in racing is embedded in the history, culture and structure of the sport. Indeed, the very purpose of a jockey, trainer or owner is to win races. And yet, he/she or at least those around him/her is relatively free to bet on the horse to win. On the surface this seems fine – betting on your own horse to win cannot lead to fixing. But of course it does – a trainer or a jockey might intentionally fix previous races (even if no bets were placed) to achieve a better weight or better odds for when the money is truly down. This situation increases the temptation to fix races by ‘laying’ your horse to lose on the betting exchanges. Anyway, let’s examine the betting landscape and the earning potential of legitimate folk.


                 This blog is in no way speculating on whether this race was fixed


As I write this, the 14:25 at Ludlow, in Shropshire, England, has just finished. Prior to the race start, a total of £364,024 was matched on Betfair’s exchanges. And yet, the winner only receives £5,198. Worse still, the jockey will only typically receive 10% of that. By the time the winner crossed the line, some £537,862 was traded. And this was only on Betfair and on the win market. We have Betdaq, myriad of bookmakers where one can place ‘matchbets’, exchanges overseas, in addition to the spread betting markets. When we consider that the odds before the race ranged from 5.7 to 19 (average price 12.45) and we imagine that the liquidity is a) halved (due to half being matched by the bettor and the layer) and b) split evenly (not likely but for this example), we can make the following deduction: It is essentially possible for each jockey to lay their horse to lose (on average and as a rough example) up to £2,400 – approximately five times the prize money for the only winning jockey!

But race-fixing opportunities are, in reality, far more lucrative. On an above average quality race, millions of pounds are traded with the prize money still paling in comparison to the potential gains. There are wages to consider and career risk. But overall, the scales are in favour of fixing.


Darts

Whilst horse racing can only generally be fixed on the betting exchanges, two-man sports such as Darts can be fixed anywhere offering a market. This is because instead of ‘laying’ an individual (laying and darts players is not an image I’m comfortable with), one can simply bet the other player.

Thursday is an ordinary Premier League Darts night. ‘Duh duh duh duh, dunna nunna nuh nuh!!’ Five matches are scheduled on the betting exchanges which will each surpass £1,000,000 traded pre-match and live. In addition, you have likely over 50 bookmakers receiving bets on each match, pre-match and live, online, by phone and in some retail outlets. If we assign a max market turnover (just on who will win the match) at £5000 per bookmaker, we see an average turnover (using our betting exchanges halving) of £750,000. The prize money for the winner? £150,000 - in one of the best competitions of the Darting circuit. A player could make more than that by chucking one match of his 14 in the group stages. He could even still win the tournament!
I came across this and even without this blog, it’s worth sharing; but it illustrates what we’re dealing with here.

                                            


Naturally, the top 20 are earning good money. Although when factoring in taxes, agent fees and travelling costs, they still creep into the arena where the wages/prize money to liquidity ratio patrols, and tempts. Almost laughable, the bottom earners have received less than two cups of overpriced coffee in Starbucks. Imagine if one of these players received an invitation to play in a match whereby hundreds of thousands could be bet on any of his matches. Of course he could be a moral individual, as many are, and refuse the temptation/offer from a opportunistic match-fixer. But the threat is there. In fact, this is what happens in major sports such as soccer. Teams not normally offered for betting due to their low profile, find themselves in a competition whereby betting is available. On occasion, match-fixing ensues.

Cricket

The chances of finding out the true liquidity of the cricket market are about the same as Tupac playing for Bangladesh in the 2015 Cricket World Cup. Many have tried and failed to estimate the true market size. There are stories of £100,000 bets being placed in a suitcase in an Indian restaurant, or over 4 Lakh Crore traded on the 2013 Indian Premier League. One Lakh Crore is 1 Trillion Rupees or £10 billion pounds. Sometimes I think people make these numbers up (maybe because they like saying Lakh or Crore). Other times, I think the numbers could be right. There are 1.27 billion people in India, 159 million in Bangladesh and 21.6 million in Sri Lanka. That works out as £6.90 per bet per person across the whole tournament. Seems reasonable. Or maybe it doesn’t. No one knows.



                                         

  One Lakh or is it a Crore. Or maybe a hemi-demi-semi Lakh Crore?

The point is that betting in cricket far exceeds wages, prize money or even advertising. And this is why bookmakers are synonymous with cricket. There have also been scandals involving extremely high level players (the opposite to football whereby the largest games can only be targeted through the floodlights such as ’96 or through referees) as cricket has the most worrying ratio. Even in darts, where the players earn pittance, the potential money from match-fixing is not life-changing. The risk might outweigh the reward as prison awaits and or another job is possible after Darts. But in cricket, the figures are so ludicrous, any player approached is no longer a professional. He is the man on the street being asked if he would possibly snort a line of cocaine for £1 million.

Match-fixing has happened before in regulated markets, illegal markets, big and small. But when the stakes are enormous when compared to the potential prizes and/or wages on offer, the risk is greater.


In other news, I am beginning my second book. Stay tuned and spread the word.