A time for celebration and global unity, but also record-breaking levels of gaming fraud.
The World Cup is the most popular sports event in the world, enjoyed by billions of fans. The event has been held every four years since its inception in 1930, bringing together the world’s most prominent national teams for a competition that typically lasts a month.
Naturally, the major sporting event is always accompanied by a rising interest in sports betting.
In 2022, the event ran from late November to December due to the severe summer heat in host nation, Qatar. Despite its rather critical timing, the event still attracted enormous audiences, and interest from avid sports bettors. In fact, the 2022 World Cup led to even more gambling activity than the 2018 World Cup, with a recorded 13% increase in betting during that period.
Despite several measures and security protocols, betting fraud was, like the 2018 edition, still a concern. Fraud protection service Cifas predicted an increase in fraudulent claims submitted in the months following the 2022 World Cup. Its fears were not groundless, as it found that fraudulent chargeback claims had risen by 172% in the first nine months of 2022.
In other words, gambling operators deal with many challenges, including onboarding users during traffic surges, underage gambling, risks of fraud, and more.
The risks of online sports betting during the World Cup.
Perhaps because of its popularity, the World Cup is essentially a petri dish for betting fraud. After all, major sporting events have always drawn in criminals. For example, hackers launched around 450 million cyberattacks against organizers at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.
During competition times, when operators introduce special offers such as free bets and bonuses to attract new customers, cases of bonus abuse, multi-accounting/gnoming, underage gambling, money laundering, fake documentation during sign-up, and other nefarious activities see a significant rise.
As if the above ‘everyday’ fraud was not bad enough, operators invariably have to deal with very specific incidents during major sporting events like the World Cup. For example, during the 2022 Word Cup, bookmakers were forced to stop accepting bets on the World Cup Man of the Match award amid concerns of a fixing scam threatening to cost them millions. Since the said award is determined via a public vote on FIFA’s site, it is exposed to manipulation. It was later revealed that tipsters had been encouraging their followers (typically thousands) to vote for sportspeople they had placed bets on.
Apart from World Cup betting fraud and scams, gaming operators also endure challenges such as
- Onboarding a huge amount of new players
- Verifying accounts in a thorough and effective manner
- Offering a smooth and safe onboarding process
- Competing with other operators, media, and marketing campaigns. For instance, the 2022 World Cup, partly due to being held during a critical time, i.e., close to Christmas, there was increased competition for cash-strapped users’ funds.
- Ensuring regulatory compliance is another challenge that operators must meet, not only during major sporting events like the World Cup.
Further problems arise when bettors opt for black-market betting sites, mainly due to bigger bonus benefits and vague rules concerning deposit limits. Such black-market sites also lack the requirement of KYC processes, which presents its own unique problems.
What we can learn from the Qatar 2022 World Cup in terms of betting fraud.
An estimated £1.5 billion was wagered on the Qatar 2022 World Cup in the UK alone. As predicted by experts prior to the event, many bettors appeared to prefer to view and bet on the major tournament indoors, resulting in an increased demand for online betting platforms.
To capitalize on the rising popularity of football, operators took the opportunity to provide odds on everything from which team would be sent off first, to the number of yellow cards England would receive in one game.
Now that the World Cup is over and will only reappear in 2026, operators should know that customer acquisition and retention after major tournaments are vital to a successful sports betting business. However, in the case of the 2022 World Cup, its timing allowed for an ample acquisition opportunity for bookmakers as the Premier League resumed only a week after the event ended. That allowed for a shorter retention and loss window than Euro 2020, which had a month-long gap.
Betting fraud should still be a concern.
It is worth noting that today’s fraudsters have evolved into multinational business organizations. Falling victim to them does not just mean financial losses and operational disruptions for betting platforms. Fraudulent activity can contribute to funding larger, more heinous operations, e.g., human trafficking, money laundering, and funding terrorist operations, among others. (Read our interview with Jinisha Bhatt, financial crime investigator to discover the hidden Hume cost of financial crime). More is at stake than just money, and fraud cannot be considered a mere “cost of conducting business.”
How to prepare for World Cup 2026 as a gaming operator.
Although by the time the 2026 World Cup rolls around, the iGaming market will undoubtedly be more regulated, it will still be susceptible to betting fraud.
It will also likely be a suitable opportunity to draw in new customers (considering it will be held in the blossoming US and Canada football market). For these reasons and more, consumers will be seeking a safe and secure platform that complies with international FIFA World Cup betting regulations, alongside national and international iGaming regulations.
Employing identity verification solutions.
Our fully automated identity verification solutions helps gaming operators offer seamless player onboarding, deposit and withdrawal and AML checks as well as age verification, while adhering to not only European and UK regulations, but also to new requirements in emerging markets like Canada or Brazil. This, undoubtedly, is a win-win situation for both the business and the consumer.
Senior Content & SEO Manager at IDnow
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