Declare war on sports gamblingWhether the prosecution admits it or not, the uproar over match-fixing in professional volleyball has now spread to baseball - our most popular sport. Current players in the Korea Baseball Organization have been accused of intentionally walking batters in order to fix “propositional bets,” and some are saying this is merely the tip of the iceberg.
This is shocking news that shakes the foundation of Korean professional sports and reminds us that the lessons we thought we learned form the K-League football scandal last year were not enough. In Taiwan, two popular ball clubs were dissolved after a match-fixing scandal rocked their league in 2009. Our professional sports teams may be awaiting a similar fate. How much more corruption can loyal and devoted fans take?
The baseball players allegedly involved in match-fixing schemes should come out and speak to their fans. The prosecution says the evidence is not strong enough to spread the V-League investigation to baseball. But the worst outcome of this situation is if officials attempt to play down the corruption in sports, only to have information leaked in the future. It is the players’ and the league’s duty to the fans of this beloved sport to clear up this mess, not to try to bury it by distancing themselves from the reports.
It is also the prosecution’s obligation to push forward with this investigation, not only in the KBO but to other alleged schemes taking place in basketball and women’s volleyball. They must crack down on the athletes corrupting the name of Korean sport and shut down illegitimate gambling Web sites that are at the root of this mess.
The unlawful sports-betting industry thrives in Korea with a total transaction figure reaching 3.7 trillion won ($3.3 billion) as of 2010. There are more than 1,000 Internet sites now available for gambling, which are often accessible from smartphones. The government must stop this poisonous underground business.
A proposed amendment to the National Sports Promotion Law mandates that anyone involved in match fixing - including operators of illegal sports gambling sites - serve a prison term for a maximum of seven years or be fined a maximum of 70 million won. The revision also stipulates that any illegal gamblers be imprisoned for as long as five years or fined as much as 50 million won. This should pass, and with a legal foundation established, the government must mobilize investigation agencies and related ministries to declare a war on sports gambling.