It was a momentous day for sports betting in Europe this past week when the Netherlands became the latest country to launch a regulated online market.
It became legal to place bets with any of the ten licensed bookmakers, which includes English firm bet365, as of October 1 – more than a year after the original Remote Gaming Act was passed.
With around 13.5 million Dutchmen and women of a legal betting age, there is huge potential for gambling firms in this market – not least because this is a country that loves its sport.
It’s rare for the Dutch to be accused of major property either, however there have been some rather significant claims made against football clubs in the Netherlands this week – they have gone largely under the radar, but could not come at a worse time given Holland’s new-found liberal approach to betting.
The Big Fix
The Dutch news agency NOS released a podcast this past week that claims that youth team matches in the Netherlands are being rigged by betting syndicates.
The investigation looked into suspect betting patterns across a number of games, including a contest between the junior sides of Roda JC and RKC. Poised at 0-0, a flurry of bets came pouring in for the home team to win via an Asian bookmaker, SingBet. Naturally, Roda JC went on to win 2-1.
The result banked tens of thousands of Euros for the backers, and in a league that barely scrapes a few thousand in terms of liquidity it was a rather large anomaly, to say the least.
The podcast spoke to an anonymous ‘fixer’, and he claimed to have rigged a number of matches in the Under-23 division – paying players as much as €1,500 each to throw the game.
A betting data firm that NOS spoke to said that they ‘question the integrity of this competition’, and claimed that based on the odds provided Roda JC’s chances of winning increased 16% in the first half of the game with no goal scored or red card issued to the opposition.
Coincidentally, RKC took the lead early in the second half, but the betting market simply didn’t move – Roda JC’s odds of winning remained static despite going a goal down.
The KNVB, which is Holland’s equivalent of the Football Association, have said their ‘worst fears have been confirmed’ by the apparent fix, although they claim they don’t have the powers to intervene in any way – instead, they have called upon Dutch police to open an investigation.
It’s not the first time that the NOS podcast Gefixt has lifted the lid on potential fraud in sport. They examined a darts match involving five-time world champion Raymond van Barneveld in April 2020, in which he was thrashed 0-5 and averaged 65 – roughly 20 points lower, at the very least, than ‘Barney’ would be expected to throw.
Suspiciously big bets of €10,000 were placed on his opponent, Martin Adams, to win via accounts in Spain and Nigeria, and all told one betting firm took €60,000 in bets on that game – as opposed to just a few hundred on other matches in the same tournament.
In the same month, the Darts Regulatory Authority found that Wessel Nijman, another Dutch player, was guilty of match fixing in the same event.
How Do Bookies Respond to Suspicious Betting Patterns?
Generally, when a bookmaker spots suspicious betting patterns – i.e. a larger than expected bet or bets placed, or a large quantity of wagers on normally low-key sports and events – they will refer the matter to the appropriate authority to investigate.
The UK Gambling Commission will take the lead on most inquiries, working alongside the individual sport’s governing body to gather evidence and ascertain a verdict.
In tennis, the reality is that match fixing is so rife on the lower-rank tours that the sport’s governors set up their own agency, the Tennis Integrity Unit, to investigate suspicious matches. They were flagged about suspect patterns in two different games at Wimbledon in the summer of 2021.
In European countries, the Malta Gaming Authority has made it mandatory for operators that they licence to report suspicious betting patterns – prior to January 1, 2021, there was no regulatory commitment for bookies to reveal the bets they have taken.