A new craze is sweeping across Australia, and it’s worrying gambling legislators: micro-betting.
Micro-bets are bets placed on small events within a particular match or game, such as a ball in a cricket march or a serve in tennis. The bets have been linked to match-fixing in sports in the past, but concerns are now being raised about just how addictive micro-betting is.
The Journal of Gambling Studies has researched the micro-betting market in Australia and found that over a third of people in Australia who regularly place bets on sporting events engage in micro-betting through offshore operators.
One of the most concerning aspects is that micro-betting has been proven to be dangerous because it often leads to a problem gambling habit. In fact, the very nature of micro-betting is the act, not in the wager. The fact that the end result is less significant does not mean that the amounts of money being exchanged are small.
While the events that are being bet on may be small, the money involved can be significant. Legislators around the globe are trying to keep up with the fast-paced growth of the gambling sector. Legislators in the US have been looking at legalizing sports betting with the aim of regulating the market more closely.
In Australia, micro-betting is technically legal for operators licensed in the country, but sporting bodies have not approved it. The concern for sports regulators is the difficulty associated with the policing of players’ potential involvement in match-fixing and other forms of corruption related to micro-betting.
Sports betting increasing on the whole
There have been calls for micro-betting to be outlawed completely, but a large number of Australian gamblers have already turned to offshore gambling operators to place their micro-bets. These service providers are not supposed to be offering services to Australian residents, but they do so illegally.
The figures collected by the Journal of Gambling Studies show that 78% of those who placed micro-bets were classified as problem gamblers. The outlet stressed that it is important to remember that people who regularly engage in sports betting were recruited for the survey, and therefore a sample of the wider population may reveal a different picture of the situation.
The nature of micro-betting is fast-paced and impulsive, which tends to be attractive to problem gamblers. Sports betting, on the whole, is growing year-on-year in Australia, and sporting events are increasingly sponsored by gambling companies.
Calls for tighter legislation
In two separate reviews of Australian gambling, recommendations were made to outlaw micro-betting, even if the bets are placed online or over the phone. The 2017 amendment to the Gambling Act did not address micro-betting, much to the disappointment of some campaign groups.
The key concern is the difficulty of regulating individual players, since it is easier for a player to purposely lose a point than for an entire team to intentionally lose a match. Bettors will likely still partake in the activity by using overseas betting companies, as many already are. The close link between micro-betting and problem gambling should draw legislators’ attention to the activity, which will need to be managed and regulated carefully to protect players and also preserve the integrity of the sports involved.
The activity will need to be addressed on a global basis by sporting regulators, as well as by local governments to ensure that both the sports themselves and betting operators can adapt to the latest form of sports betting.