Sports betting and drug taking

Two aspects of Australian sport have dominated the media in recent times. The first is the extent to which betting is coming to dominate Australian sport and the second is the extent to which drug taking has become endemic. No one seems to be joining the dots.

There is sufficient evidence to suggest widespread corruption associated with betting on sport. At its worst, this involves match fixing where whole teams are suborned by unscrupulous bookmakers. In its more minor form, it takes the form of betting on single events in a game over which an individual player has complete control, namely bowling a no ball on the fourth ball of the second over. In both cases, people in the know have an opportunity to make money at the expense of those who do not. Is important to remember that the amount of money available to those who do know is equal to the amount of money available from those people who do not know.

More invidious form of corruption is the use of performance enhancing drugs. In many cases, this is done, somewhat naïvely one thinks, simply to improve Individual or team performance and bringing glory on all those involved. However, even endeavouring to see such activity in the best possible light ignores the fact that the taking of illicit drugs is often associated with contact with criminal elements in the sport. These criminal elements often have large amounts of money to launder through bookmakers. Thus the supply of drugs in many cases is closely linked to illegal money-laundering activities.

This causal diagram shows how these links work. If drug taking is providing a team (or horse) with a marked advantage then the chances of winning a greatly increased for those who have inside knowledge.  As this degree of certainty (based on inside information) increases, the amount of money invested also increases and as the pool of money increases, the money invested by “mug punters”, who simply back their own team out of loyalty, also increases. It’s a win-win for the money launderers and the bookies.

One technical aspect of this diagram is important. It is made up entirely of what are known as reinforcing loops, which means the system keeps heading in the same direction all the time. In this case, things will only get worse. At present, there is no balancing loop (in the form of some policy control) to bring the situation under control.

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