The impact of sports betting

Betting on sports is one of the biggest businesses in the world, and has particularly grown as more and more betting agencies have established themselves on the internet. It has been estimated that in 2012, 74.3 billion US dollars was wagered on sports world-wide.3 This had increased
from 23.9 billion US dollars in 2004, a 210% increase!4

Many countries regulate sports betting and there are some estimates that between $700 billion and $1 trillion US dollars is bet each year, including both illegal and legal markets.5

What bets are placed on basketball?

Betting on various basketball leagues throughout the world is very common and it is not just on the major professional leagues. Betting is common even on regional leagues in some countries and is usually outside of the control of the league organisers.

Basketball is seen as an uncomplicated game to bet on, with the most common types of betting involving:

Point spread

This is an example of a “handicap” system in betting. For example, in a game, one team will be the favourite. For example, the Spurs may be favoured to win a game against the 76ers. The betting agency (or “bookmaker”) assess the Spurs as a “10 point” favourite.

This means that a person that bets on the Spurs only wins if the Spurs win by 11 or more points.

Conversely, a person betting on the 76ers wins if the 76ers win the game or if they lose the game by 9 points or less.


In this type of betting bettors wager on what the combined score of the two teams will be. For example, the betting agency may assess that the Spurs v 76ers game is an “over/under” of 188.

Bettors may then bet “over” (and will win if the combined score exceeds 188) or “under” (and will win if the combined score is 187 points or less).

Money Line Wagers

This is simply betting on who will win (or lose) the game. Betting agencies will offer differing odds depending upon which team is expected to win.

Restrictions on betting

In many competitions coaches, officials and players are not permitted to wager on any games in the competition. This restriction is regardless of what bet they placed. For example, a coach or player is restricted from betting even if they were betting that their team would win.

The reason for such restrictions is to remove any possible perception that a coach, player or official may have an interest in affecting the result other than the normal athletic contest.

Pressure from the “Betting industry”

There have been a number of examples in the last 100 years or so, where a betting scheme has impacted upon sport. On most occasions it is not the direct outcome which is compromised; instead, players, coaches or officials have been pressured to:

  • provide “inside information” on the health of players, weather conditions (in regards to outdoor sports), team composition;
  • affect the “points spread” in a game (i.e. not to have the team lose the game but instead to manipulate the margin by which they won);
  • manipulate tactical situations.12

These betting schemes will often be “justified” to players and coaches because they are not being asked to affect the overall result. Nevertheless, being involved is a particularly serious matter.

Players and coaches must also be conscious of not inadvertently disclosing “betting sensitive” information. For example, the fact that a particular player is carrying an injury is “betting sensitive”. This information is relevant both to which team might win the game, but also, for example, the number of points that person may score in a game, which can be the subject of a wager.

The safest course is not to disclose information unless it is already in the “public domain”.13

What to do if approached?

Players or coaches should report to their club or league any contact they receive asking for what could be “inside” or “betting sensitive” information.

http://www.statista.com/statistics/270261/amount- wagered-and-won-in-global-online-sports-betting/
(English) Football Betting – the global gambling industry worth billions, BBC, http://www.bbc.com/sport/0/ football/24354124
(English) For example, in a rugby league game, a player was asked to commit fouls in a position where the opponent would be able to score a penalty kick. Bettors where then to place bets on the first score being by field goal.
For example, a footballer was sanctioned by their league for disclosing information to their mother about team selections, prior to the teams being announced publicly.