A recent report by Swiss-based company Sportradar has revealed that while instances of match-fixing in the world of online sports betting was down over the last five years, ostensibly due to key figures in high profile cases being sent to prison or their activities otherwise curbed, there has been a spike in another crucial data point.
That being that there is an increasing tendency for those to make illegal betting activities using cryptocurrency as their choice of payment method.
This has been driven by two factors, the increasing availability of cryptocurrency payment services and the fact that betting amounts in illegal gambling have tended to show an upward increase and cryptocurrency is, arguably, one of the easiest forms of payments to use when making big bets that you do not want to be noticed for.
How big is the scale of the problem? A recent study by Berlin-based Transparency International showed that in Asia alone, the illegal gambling market was calculated to be generating revenues of around $400 billion in 2018.
That sounds huge, but it is worth noting that some of the biggest population centers in the world today, China, India, Indonesia, Bangladesh, and Pakistan are all encompassed by that data.
On the face of it, it does sound rather like cryptocurrency is facilitating illegal gambling, certainly in Asia, but is that actually the case?
Other Contributory Factors
There are a number of other factors you need to consider when viewing this data. Firstly, there is an increasing trend for bookmakers and betting sites to offer cryptocurrency as a form of payment. The lack of need for an intermediary for taking payments using crypto makes this very attractive to both providers and punters alike.
Additionally, it stops other problems from occurring, such as credit card or bank account fraud and of course, the anonymity crypto offers also adds a further level of security. However, it is worth noting that many card issuers have made it so difficult for people in Asia, in particular, to gamble legally, using deposit and withdrawal services, that many are seeking an easier alternative.
It is easy to put these facts together with the rise in illegal gambling using bitcoin or other crypto and to conclude that one drives the other. However, is that really the case?
Money Still Talks
A closer look at some other facts paints a different story. John Caldwell, CasinoCoin Foundation’s director of advocacy, points out that the majority of funds used in the gambling market are still standard currency and that crypto still only represents a small proportion of the industry as a whole.
There is also the relevant point that illegal gambling has been around since gambling began and is unlikely to ever be eliminated. As Brandon Morey, the CEO of We Accept Cryptocurrency stated;
“I don’t believe illegal gambling will ever be curbed or contained since a whole lot of people like betting on sports. In fact, illegal gambling markets will only grow due to technological advances”.
And therein lies the point, it isn’t solely cryptocurrency that drives illegal gambling, but a culture of it that has existed since gambling began and technological advances have helped facilitate its growth. Safeguards are already in place so that the next generation of punters enjoying sports or esports betting can do so safely and securely.
Illegal gambling would be around regardless of whether cryptocurrency existed or not and while its particular qualities may exacerbate some forms of illegal gambling, it is by no means the root cause of it.