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Inside Line: F1 must follow Nascar, ban drivers/teams from betting

The ugly spectre of gambling is creeping into Formula 1 as we speak, with the myriad of ways in which teams and drivers can manipulate results it is surprising that placing a bet on any motorised sports is even allowed by governments let alone sports associations.

The Associated Press reports that with the prospect of cheating in mind Nascar have set a precedent by banning competitors from betting on its races as part of new gambling guidelines established in this season’s rulebook.

Nascar employees are prohibited from disclosing confidential information and from requesting insider information that could potentially help “their own gain or for the gain of others.”

They are allowed to participate in fantasy sports relating to the three national touring series, Cup, Xfinity and Truck, but may not accept prizes with a value of more than $250 in any games.

Nascar partnered with Sportradar Integrity Services to develop a comprehensive gambling policy intended to protect the integrity of the sport, concluded the report.

All sports are open to cheating in the name of gambling, a well-known scourge of horse racing, cricket, soccer, boxing and just about all mainstream sports.

‘Taking a Dive’ in sport is as old as the hills.

The opportunities for “insider trading” in motorsport is vast while tampering a result in F1 or Karting (and everything in between) is remarkably simple and extremely, if not impossible, to police or even bust after the fact.

Which begs the question: How can authorities allow the public to bet on motor racing let alone Formula 1?

Consider these very basic and obvious examples:

  • Fictitious Example 1: You put a bet on Valtteri to win the Russian Grand Prix, you drop ten grand to get 10-1 odds from your bookie. You are looking like a winner for having faith in the Finn, until Toto  decides to hand Lewis the victory. Did the Merc boss have a mate with money on Lewis?
  • Fictitious Example 2: A backmarker driver who crashes a lot gets a mate to a put 100K bet that he will crash within the first ten minutes of Monaco Grand Prix FP1.
    The mate gets 10 to 1 odds that driver will crash, the driver does as planned and on Monday his mate goes and collects a million in winnings from the bookies.

You get the drift…

It is no secret that Formula 1 are intent on maximising what they can with the extensive data they have at their disposal. In-race betting is on the cards perhaps even by the start of the forthcoming season

When sporting chiefs talk about digital assets, apart from the obvious value of content, without saying it, they also count the gambling potential of sport because that’s where the serious money is.

The online gambling industry gobbled up $44.16-billion in 2016 and is estimated to reach $82-billion by 2022. And that’s the ‘legal’ stuff double or triple that to include ‘illegal’ gambling.

A couple of years ago Liberty Media chief executive Greg Maffei said, “Outside of the United States there is a huge gambling opportunity in the sport, none of which we capitalize on.”

In September last year, Maffei got what he wanted when F1 announced a $100-million five year deal with Interregional Sports Group (ISG) to enable the development of live in-race betting during grands prix.

F1 commercial chief, Sean Bratches said at the time, “This deal allows us to develop new and exciting ways for Formula 1 fans around the globe to engage with the world’s greatest racing spectacle, while ensuring integrity with best practice oversight from Sportradar.”

He would say that, wouldn’t he? But what about the crooks? And the addicts? Has he a plan for them?

Apart from a cheating plague motorsport gambling triggers there is the sadder problem of gambling addiction – like drugs like booze gambling is addictive, and seriously so in this era of online betting.

Addiction.com reports: “As with all types of data, certain trends or patterns of behaviour start to surface within a given population. Gambling addiction statistics are no different.”

“Some of the more prevalent gambling trends show:

  • The likelihood of developing a gambling addiction increases 23-fold for people affected by alcohol use disorders
  • Over 80 percent of American adults gamble on a yearly basis
  • Three to five gamblers out of every hundred struggles with a gambling problem”

The report adds: “As far as gambling and criminal activity goes, gambling addiction statistics reveal a direct correlation between the severity of a gambling addiction and the likelihood of committing crimes. Rates of gambling addiction for criminal offenders far exceed rates found among non-offenders. On average, an estimated 50 percent of those affected by gambling problems commit crimes in order to support their addiction.”

GrandPrix247, being in English, is frequented mainly by USA, British, Canadian, South African and Australian F1 fans where online gambling is sharply on the rise:

North American Foundation for Gambling Addiction Help has this to say about addiction to betting:

  • In Australia statistics on problem gambling among the population shows quite high numbers. Approximately 0.5-1% (figures vary in different states) of citizens suffer from this addiction. This is so due to the changes in the betting industry due to digital technologies.
  • Canada is among the countries with the highest percentage of gambling addicted citizens. Imagine that ¼ of all residents (or their friends/relatives) have suffered from some sort of bad consequences (job loss, depression, marriage problems and etc.) owing to their dependence.
  • In the United Kingdom, addiction drains a lot of money (about £1.2 billion annually). Therefore, the government should pay special attention to this issue. According to various scientific sources, the cost also comprises special institutions service (mental health clinics), homelessness and police involvement.”
  • The USA is in the top list of countries, where a huge part of the population (2.6% or almost 10 million people) has an addiction problem because of gambling. These activities are represented in every state (even where they are restricted). Overall, compulsive betting behaviour costs about $6-billion per year for U.S. economics.
  • Note: No South African gambling info in the same report.

Governments, the FIA and motorsport authorities of every discipline, motorcycles and cars MUST BAN gambling at all costs, because motor racing is the least tinker-proof sport of all the ball games and solo sports put together. In other words: do the right thing, folks.

However unlikely that is, Formula 1 should at least take a leaf out of Nascar and stop drivers and team members from betting on the sport they compete in. The FIA should follow the example too.

Big Question: Should gambling in motorsport be banned?

Briatore: Put it in the hall!