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Sports betting: Burundi soccer with human rights violations a bad parlay, even during pandemic
9th April, 15:21Like so many industries during the COVID-19 pandemic, sports betting has been decimated, with brick-and-mortar sports books shuttered and little to wager on via the internet.
And when the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement unveils the financials for March next week, the scope of the devastation will be apparent during what was supposed to the most lucrative month of the year, with the NCAA Tournament in full swing and the NBA and NHL playoffs, and the Masters looming on the horizon.
But earlier this week a feel-good story emerged from that wasteland, as word spread that a New Jersey bettor had turned a $14 wager on a six-leg parlay encompassing some obscure overseas soccer matches into $20,276.01 payoff.
Turns out there was nothing feel-good about it thanks to New Jersey gaming regulators.
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I'm all for an economic windfall amid surging unemployment claims. A shining ray of hope in which the lucky winner likely knew little about what they were betting on, other than it was actual live sports at a time when everything else on the menu involved future bets on next year's Super Bowl winner, correctly selecting the top three picks in the NFL Draft or wagering on Week 0 college football games to be played five months from now.
But a closer inspection of the parlay reveals the first two legs involve soccer matches from last Sunday pitting Olympic Star against Lydia Ludic, and Dynamic against Aigle Noir.
Of course you're not familiar with those teams, or their star players. Or even what continent the matches were played on.
That's because they're from the Premier League in Burundi, which was recently approved by New Jersey regulators as a betting option.
So according to Amnesty International, the tiny East African nation is rife with "serious human rights violations and abuses" amid the current political unrest.
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The organization Human Rights Watch notes, "Burundi's elections, scheduled to begin in May 2020, exacerbated political tensions. Members of the ruling party's youth league, the Imbonerakure, often working with local officials, the national intelligence service, and police, carry out widespread human rights abuses, including extrajudicial executions, disappearances, arbitrary arrests, sexual violence, extortion, beatings, and intimidation, often targeting real or perceived political opponents. Civil society and media are unable to work independently and have been banned, forced to close down, or are unable to criticize the government."
Last week, both the BBC and Voice of America were banned from broadcasting within Burundi, a country some will remember from the genocides that occurred in 1972 and 1993.
The Division of Gaming Enforcement is responsible for reviewing all wagering options submitted by sports betting licensees in the state. In this case, it was William Hill, which has partnered with Monmouth Park on sports betting, providing action on Burundi's Premier League.
Desperate times call for desperate measures? Or should we be better than this, even when it comes to finding action in the time of coronavirus?
I'd say the latter.
It's not just soccer from Burundi. Russia is cited prominently on any list of human rights violators. Among the other recent additions was the top Russian table tennis league. Yup, table tennis league. Same for China, with the Chinese basketball league another addition, although that season has ended.
Burundian soccer, along with Russian table tennis, are only approved by the DGE until April 20. I'd say they should go away immediately, and forever, regardless of how long the pandemic persists.
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Who could have ever predicted we'd be facing an ethical dilemma relating to sports betting. Just like who could have predicted we'd be sheltering in place and crafting homemade face masks.
Maybe none of this really matters at time when everyone is impacted in some way by the current economic chaos.
Or maybe it matters more than ever.