High-stakes poker player Tony Bloom made his fortune betting on soccer, so much so that he managed to purchase a professional team in 2009. At this weekend’s kickoff to the English Premier League’s 2017-18 season, the guy known as “The Lizard” now possesses the squad that he cheered as a boy, Brighton and Hove Albion FC, and in taking them all the way to the EPL, he’s highlighting British football’s sometimes complicated relationship with gambling.
When Brighton takes the pitch on Saturday, it is going to be the first time the squad has competed in the English Football Association’s (FA) top tier in 34 years. Albion fans feature the climb, from two levels down in League One eight decades ago, in part to Bloom’s pumping cash into the club (an estimated $200 million) while building team plan on data analytics.
Bloom earned his reptilian nickname at the poker table, where he was famous for his cold-blooded, stealthily analytical strategy. At the tables, it has, with his latest live tournament cash coming from the 2016 $111,111 WSOP Big Drop (27th for $166,622), and his greatest score in 2011, when he finished 2nd in an Aussie Millions high-roller event for $964,296.
But it was in the company of betting on soccer where Bloom parlayed his poker winnings into an effort that turned him into a billionaire.
Betting on Soccer
Bloom, 47, is widely regarded as the most successful soccer gambler of his generation. With an innovative math education from Manchester University leading to victory in both sports betting and poker, he founded Star Lizard in 2006, a betting consultancy that uses statistics to predict game results and then place bets for high-rollers.
Now with a staff of almost 200 supporting a group of traders, programmers, and analysts, Star Lizard helps Bloom’s betting syndicate of top rollers make data-driven bets on soccer and other sports.
And even though Bloom is reportedly the company’s biggest client, FA rules do not require him to change his habits just because he has a vested interest in the outcome of certain games.
In a statement to The New York Times, a Star Lizard representative insisted, “Tony’s betting is beyond reproach concerning ethics,” and stated that Bloom himself did not bet on Brighton.
The announcement also pointed to the growing role Star Lizard plays in assisting sports leagues assure their matches aren’t fixed. “[Star Lizard’s knowledge] of how the betting markets should play out before and during the game are incredibly valuable to the anti-match-fixing work performed by numerous football authorities.”
Gambling Double Standards
Football Association spokeswoman Louisa Fyans told The New York Times that when the institution updated its principles in 2014, it realized some owners had significant gambling interests that might have been seen as conflicting with league rules for players and coaches, particularly as betting companies began playing a larger part in the soccer market.
“These clubs would be materially diminished by the F.A.’s position on betting,” she wrote in an email. “(We implemented) provisions whereby those individuals could continue to have both an interest in football clubs and in betting companies/entities but subject to very strict rules and reporting duties.”
Players, coaches, and staff for all teams in the FA are not allowed to bet on soccer. The league recently handed down an 18-month suspension and $40,000 nice to a Burnley midfielder who made over 1,200 stakes on other teams over the course of seven seasons.
Some point out the hypocrisy of the FA’s stance on gambling, where players and owners are held to different standards.
In regards to, Bloom isn’t alone. Company mogul Peter Coates owns both bet365 and Stoke City FC, and then Coates’ two company have totally entwined themselves with arena naming and uniform rights.
In reality, dozens of soccer teams throughout England are finding themselves more likely to entertain sponsorship offers from gambling entities. Nine clubs from 20 from the EPL have a betting outfit as their top sponsor. Together, these firms paid $62 million for right to build their viewers on the backs of players that can not partake in the services they offer.
And with club owners like Bloom playing a larger role in soccer, the safe bet is that such relationships will only continue to rise.