How Common Are Insider Bets? (Like the Election Betting Scandal)

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Insider betting has been making headlines in the UK following the recent election betting scandal, but how common is it, what do the regulations say, and how many similar scandals have we faced in the past?

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What is Insider Betting?

Insider betting is the act of placing bets with prior “inside” knowledge. Take award ceremonies as an example. It’s not insider betting if you’ve seen all the films, studied trends, and have a good read on the judges. That would be akin to checking the form, paying attention to the ground, and knowing how good the jockeys and trainers are prior to a horse race.

However, if you’re one of those judges and know the final result before anyone else, you are considered to have an unfair advantage, and that’s insider betting.

The Lowdown on the Election Betting Scandal

The UK election betting scandal is the reason everyone is talking about insider betting right now. It’s an ongoing scandal, and it’ll probably drag on long after the actual election, so we won’t go too in-depth here. But here’s a quick timeline and summary:

  • A Private Secretary to the Prime Minister placed a £100 bet on a July election on 12th June 2024.
  • Rishi Sunak called a July 4 election on 15th June 2024.
  • Police investigated the incident, more cases were revealed.
  • On 23rd June 2024, The Times reported that there were hundreds of suspicious bets

The scandal isn’t limited to bets on the day of the election itself. Several members of parliament are also said to have placed bets on themselves to lose their seats, including a Conservative MP who allegedly wagered £8,000 that he would lose his seat, even though he had a clear majority.

What are the UK Laws On Insider Betting?

To some, insider betting may represent a harmless issue—more of a moral problem than a legal one. It’s a way of using acquired knowledge to gain an edge, right? Well, not quite. In fact, according to the UK Gambling Act of 2005, which sets out the country’s gambling laws, it could constitute cheating.

Section 42 of this act states that someone found to be cheating or enabling someone else to cheat is committing a criminal offence, even if their actions are ultimately not lucrative.

It doesn’t specify exactly what cheating entails, but it’s fair to assume that wagering on a market when you already know the outcome would fall under this. Anyone found to be in breach of this rule could face a prison sentence of up to 2 years, a fine, or both.

This law doesn’t just exist to protect bookmakers. It also protects the integrity of the industry at large, not to mention the sporting and political environments to which it applies. Individuals may be influenced to act in a certain way if they believe they can get more money out of it.

Imagine that you’re in the public eye and you’re having a baby in a much-publicised event. The bookmakers are taking bets on the name of the child, so you check the markets, find the most obscure and high-priced name, place a substantial bet, and announce that as the name of your new baby.

It wouldn’t be fair on the child who has to live with a terrible name, nor would it be fair on the countless other gamblers who placed bets in good faith. Of course, this is just an example, and an extreme one at that, but we’ve seen similar markets and possibilities in the past. Bookmakers have offered extensive betting markets on the names of all William and Kate’s children. For their third child, you could get 1,000 to 1 for “Joffrey” and 500 to 1 for “Daenerys”.

Years earlier, bookmakers had been offering odds on the engagement and had to suspend them following a leak that saw a series of “well-groomed gamblers” (believed to be part of the couple’s inner circle) enter betting shops and lay down sizable wagers.

How Common is Insider Betting in the UK?

The election betting scandal is not the only time that illicit gambling has made the news over the last couple of years. Football players Ivan Toney and Sandro Tonali received lengthy Premier League bans last season due to betting allegations, but their situations were a little different. They did bet on their own games, but they bet on their sides to win. 

Going further back, Matt Le Tissier admitted to an attempted spread betting scheme in which he and his friends would bet on the first throw-in, and he would then make sure of the outcome. Unfortunately for the Southampton legend, he lost his bets, and while the rules clearly state that it doesn’t matter if the bets were successful or not, no further action was taken.

Snooker has also had its fair share of betting scandals, too. Until recently, the biggest scandal involved Stephen Lee, who was banned for 12 years (the ban actually expires later this year). But this was trumped by a major scandal involving several Chinese players, including some of the biggest names in the game (Yan Bingtao, Zhao Xintong, and Liang Wenbo), all of whom were given bans. In fact, the former English Open winner, Liang Wenbo, was banned for life as he was deemed to be non-compliant.

Summary: Tackling Insider Betting in the UK

Insider betting has undoubtedly been happening for decades, but unless someone came forward and admitted guilt, it was very hard to spot and even harder to prove. These days,  however, bookies can track suspicious activities, detect abnormal market shifts, and then act accordingly. Essentially, the same software they use to track problem gambling and stop money laundering/fraud can draw their attention to potentially illicit activities. 

In theory, that should greatly reduce the risk, but the prevalence of online gambling, and the fact that punters can bet on every outcome across most events and competitions, means that insider betting is more common than ever.

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