I’ve said multiple times that the depths to which sportsbooks scraped the bottom of the barrel in the spring of 2020 was darkly amusing and inspiring at the same time. The thing is, they were doing this before the crunch. And after. Maybe not to the extent of splashing Taiwanese women’s basketball on their front pages, but you still could and can find really weird sports. And the use of obscure sports is a glaring weak point for integrity.
So who actually bets on the Laotian 2nd Floorball League?
Well, from what I’ve gathered, there’s three main categories of bettors. Only one of these is beneficial to the sportsbook, and is probably the reason they keep doing it. None are what would be considered beneficial to society or even the sports betting ecosystem as a whole.
The most innocent group of people to bet on obscure markets consistently (as opposed to the occasional novelty bet that no one expects anything out of) are “degenerates”, the same gambling addicts who will just bet on whatever’s in front of their faces. If it’s the middle of the night and some soccer league halfway around the world is what’s on the screen, they’ll bet it. Everything from table tennis to bizarre half-rink hockey to totally legitimate Indian cricket. This was in fact the reason for those Eastern European ping pong leagues running around the clock and existing at all-it was to ensure that there was something on screen at all times, purely for the purposes of gambling.
Something that greases the skids for a huge and inevitable problem with gambling doesn’t seem like the best thing. But it’s sweet and virtuous compared to the other two.
Many of the sharp/plus EV [Expected value] bettors are these, pouncing on whatever mismatch they get. They have little to no handicapping or serious modeling ability (the stereotype is that they’re green lumberjacks who don’t even know the players). After all, obscure sports are the most vulnerable to bad/slow lines. Which of course leads to the cycle of them getting restricted/banned after the book finds out.
I find neither the sportsbooks themselves who blast ads about the road to riches yet restrict successful bettors nor the line munchkins (coming from a tabletop RPG term for players who crudely optimize for maximum power) who act like martyrs to genius instead of people who gamed the system to be very sympathetic. So something that amplifies this sludgy mess does not seem desirable.
The smallest, weakest, and most obscure sports are the most vulnerable to manipulation and fixes. So naturally either fixers or people aware of the fix will flock to bet on these crooked games. I don’t think I need to really explain why this is a bad thing.
On one hand, the sportsbooks can simply not list the Guinea-Bissau Ferret Legging Third Division, the regulators can forbid it, and the data providers (the biggest, most important, and least visible part of the whole ecosystem), can not provide information about them. On the other, it only takes one offshore data provider and an offshore book wanting to fill that niche to break the restrictions.
So yes, like a lot of sports betting issues, this is not completely solvable. I do think that forbidding bets on the lowest hanging fruit-minor league baseball and tennis or low-division college basketball to use an American example, would still be a wise and prudent thing to do.