The Sports Bribery Act: A Law and Economics Approach

Sports bribery and match-fixing have become a part of the on-going sports news cycle. European and Asian match-fixing scandals in soccer, cricket and tennis have rocked the sports world recently. The 1919 Black Sox World Series scandal and the 1970’s Boston College point shaving incidents have illustrated that the manipulation of sporting events is a global scourge.

This paper examines the corruption cases that led to the 1964 passage of the Sports Bribery Act (18 U.S.C. § 224). The authors discuss the scope of the statute, its operation with complementary and ancillary federal and state laws, and the reported instances of the statute’s application. The economic discussion focuses on Becker’s model for optimal deterrence, its application to the Sports Bribery Act, and an examination of the implications regarding the utility for would-be match-fixers. The paper concludes with a discussion of the challenges facing a policy change, including the complexity of regulating both professional and amateur sport, methods of detection, and jurisdictional issues raised by the global nature of match-fixing.

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