Three billion reasons why cheating is rife
1,095,000,000,000. Do you know what this number is?
I’m not even sure what to call it. I didn’t pass many of my exams in maths after about grade eight. But I can do basic addition and tell you that there’s nine zeroes in there. Or at least I think there’s nine. I counted twice. Lets just split the diff and call it ‘elephant bucks’.
That sort of money can bend reality like the gravity well around a large body in space
That’s the number of elephant bucks that's wagered on sport around the world every year. About three billion dollars a day.
That makes it easier to imagine. Three billion bucks, we can all come at that. Unless your name is Packer or you own a bank you’re never going to lay hands on that much money, but you can probably imagine it, that sort of capital, flowing back and forth across the face of the global monetary system every day.
Hell, in those terms it’s nothing. Three billion dollars? That’s chicken feed.
But over a thousand squillion elephant bucks, every year? That’s different.
That sort of money has mass. It’s dense with possibilities. It can bend reality like the gravity well around a large body in space.
So why do some sports bosses have trouble admitting that the force of so much money might just be able to bend a result here and there inside their precious little fiefdoms?
Soccer, rugby league, cricket? In Australian terms they’re all good for it.
In global terms of course, soccer is the money bet. But on an individual level, which is where, after all we all understand our personal relationship to money, there’s any number of sports that can deliver insane, disorienting sums of money to gifted individuals, especially if they are willing to do whatever it takes to push themselves that fraction further than the competition.
Maybe it means doping. Maybe the payday comes not from winning, but from losing at just the right moment.
But if the coaches and club men and spokesdrones who’ve charged into the media over the last twenty four hours to loudly proclaim that the Australian Crime Commission’s investigation has cleared their outfits of any wrong doing, and there’s nothing to see here, nothing at all, now move along and buy your merchandise… if they think this is all is going away, they’re wrong.
It’s not just about links between Melbourne gangsters and AFL heroes. It’s not about a couple of curious results in the NRL. It’s a global problem. It’s the refusal of the American NFL to countenance a real drug testing regime. It’s about the hilariously corrupt boyars of the International Olympic Committee. It's about the soccer, always the soccer. It’s about cycling and baseball, about free markets and the obsessions of the Chinese government. It’s about any pro sport in which the potential pay off for cheating far outweighs the risk.
There is a way to negate the efforts of the drug cheats, of course, which is simply to give up and let any professional player run whatever risks they want.
But a $1,095,000,000,000 market in sports betting?
There is no way to stand against that.