|Shuffle up and deal and...match-fix?|
Gambling is so entrenched that to keep [Singaporeans] away from the casinos, the government has levied an $80 charge on Singapore nationals just to get through the doors..."No more burying our heads in the sand, Singapore is a nation addicted to gambling, as is much of the region," said writer Neil Humphreys, author of the football novel "Match Fixer".What's more, Singapore being a center of global finance and transportation have made it a most suitable home base for shadier types engaged in match-fixing. While gambling is officially semi-tolerated, authorities have not really cracked down hard on match-fixing, However, that too may change as international pressure is applied to Singapore-based match-fixers:
"I no longer tell people that I have written a book on match-fixing or that I regularly write about football," he added. "When I did in the past, the initial response was -- without fail -- to ask for betting tips on upcoming games. That response is uniquely Singaporean."
Humphreys added that given its long association, match-fixing scandals have little "shock factor" in Singapore, meaning there's scant public pressure for action. "Authorities are doing more than ever before when it comes to match-fixing, particularly in Singapore, but the sad reality is... not enough people care," he said. "Match-fixing is just not a national issue that particularly registers with the average Singaporean. It barely registers at all."
It's one of the world's smallest and wealthiest countries, but a deep gambling culture coupled with sheer entrepreneurial zeal has made Singapore a big player in global match-fixing, experts say. The arrests of two Singaporean men over a scandal in Britain has again thrown a spotlight on the Southeast Asian city-state, known for its cleanliness, strict law and order and high number of millionaires. Despite such advantages, Singapore is continually linked to match-rigging around the world, testament to a network that is proving hard to eradicate -- even when leading members are under arrest or police protection...It's all interesting stuff; but again, note that increased pressure is coming outside of Singapore. Its denizens, meanwhile, are more concerned about cashing in on the phenomenon. That's an entrepreneurial spirit for you.
The latest developments are part of a chain of events set in motion more than 20 years ago, when Perumal started fixing games in Singapore before moving abroad to escape the attentions of Singaporean police.
"These Singaporean criminals recognised that there was money to be made in match-fixing at the low levels [smaller leagues where fixed matches are less likely to be caught], and later translated this national skill, if I could say that, to the global platform," said Chris Eaton, director of the Doha-based International Centre for Sport Security. Eaton, a former Interpol officer and ex-head of security at football's world body FIFA, calls Singapore the "epicentre of gambling in Southeast Asia".
Easy international transport, a passport accepted around the world and fluency in English and Mandarin have helped Singaporean fixers spread their influence abroad with the support of external investors, most believed to be from China.