As online sports betting and modern day sports become increasingly intertwined, criminals have been looking for ways to take advantage. Match-fixing and other sports betting-related crimes are nothing new, but the way in which some of them operate certainly is. In the past, those looking to fix matches or otherwise gain an unfair advantage over bookmakers would have to go to extreme lengths to do so, and sometimes at great cost. This meant either knowing players and coaches personally or by being part of—or familiar with—organized crime syndicates.
For bettors in today’s world, an internet connection could be all it takes to take advantage of bookmakers. This week, Spanish police in conjunction with multiple other international law enforcement agencies announced that they had busted a criminal sports betting ring that has been operating since at least 2020. The group in question is accused of both fixing sporting events and finding loopholes in online betting technology that would allow for them to place wagers before bookmakers could update live odds.
Yearslong Investigation Leads to Unbelievable Findings
It was back in 2020 when Spanish police first noticed suspicious betting activity taking place. As odd as it may seem, the suspicious betting activity in question was wagers that were being placed on table tennis matches. When Spanish police looked into the matter further, it was uncovered that the crime ring was betting on more than table tennis alone. In fact, the group did not discriminate at all and were known to place bets on anything from handball, to soccer, and anything in between.
The crime group was able to make significant sums of money betting on sports because they were doing it in a way that allowed them to place bets before live odds could be changed. The group was able to access stadium and arena live camera feeds while matches and events were going on. Because these feeds were actually live and not subject to TV delays we unknowingly experience all the time, the criminals were able to place bets up to a minute before an online sportsbook had the opportunity to change odds.
Imagine being able to bet on the next goal scorer in a soccer match with 100% accuracy. In a nutshell, that is exactly what these people were doing; and doing it on a large scale.
A Look Inside the Operation
Despite the criminal organization being based and arrested in Spain, none of them are Spanish. The group consists primarily of Bulgarians and Romanians. The people at the top of the group’s food chain had connections to a slew of Bulgarian and Romanian athletes who would assist in match-fixing. Because of these connections, the crime syndicate was able to place wagers on a massive scale with relative certainty that they would be paid out handsomely. And paid out they were.
Authorities first began putting people behind bars for being part of this crime ring over a year ago, but it was not until this past summer that the full scale of the crime was unveiled by police. Even now, a lot remains unknown about who participated. Of special interest to authorities and the public is the athletes who accepted bribes from this group in order to fix matches or otherwise give them an unfair edge over the rest of the betting public.
Authorities have seized many devices through their investigation and are still combing their way through it all. Fake bank cards, computers, cell phones, and so much more all have helped police paint, and continue to paint, a picture of how this group operated. In all likelihood, they are not the only group of their kind out there.