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Got to be in it to win it!

A fascinating tale from the world of lotteries found its way onto News.com.au this week, as it told the story of Romanian-Australian mathematician Stefan Mandel.

Over the course of a highly unusual career, Mandel managed to win 14 separate lottery jackpots using a deceptively simple – but labour intensive – method he developed.

Readers hoping for some genius-level mathematical wizardy may well be disappointed here, as the article pointed out that the system “relied on very little of [Mandel’s] mathematical training.”

Instead, the system can be summarised thus: just buy lottery tickets covering every possible combination of numbers.

Yep, that’s it.

Mandel first used the system in his home country of Romania, where he scooped up a win before leaving for Australia and cleaning up another dozen times.

Of course in most cases, the odds of winning a lottery are set up such that there would be no return on covering every possible combination of numbers.

But sometimes, a jackpot so big comes along that it does pay off to buy a ticket for every possible combo, and that’s precisely what Mandel did.

Certain lotteries work better than others. In the Australian Powerball, for instance, there are about 77 million different possible winning combinations, making the brand more or less untouchable for Mandel’s system.

Some lotteries offer much better odds, however. One operator of particular interest to Mandel was the then-newly launched Virginia Lottery, which only used numbers between one and 44 in its draws.

That gave each possible number combination odds of about one in 7 million of winning.

So, in one particular instance when the jackpot was high enough – around $15.5m – Mandel sent orders to a team of 36 specialised accountants to set about buying up tickets in bulk.

And after two days of purchases, the results were in and Mandel cleaned up.

He was investigated by the FBI, CIA, Secret Service and Interpol – presumably a hugely flattering collection of people to have come after you – but after they were unable to find any wrongdoing, was duly awarded his jackpot.

This all took place between the ‘80s and ’90s, it’s worth pointing out, and new laws have since been passed to prevent anyone else using the deceptively simple system.

As for Mandel, he eventually disbanded his team and retired to a beach house in the Pacific island nation of Vanuatu, where he still lives to this day.

Talk about a fairytale ending.

Brazilian betting courts controversy

Next up, a story from Brazil’s burgeoning betting market from the Financial Times.

The paper reported this week that more than a dozen Brazilian players are currently suspected of taking bribes for deliberately receiving yellow cards or giving away penalties, from a criminal gang who cleaned up by placing online bets on the events taking place.

The controversy has placed the betting industry and its relationship to sport at the heart of discussions in Brazil, which continues to work towards introducing a proper regulatory framework to its betting sector.

Sports betting was first legalised in the country in 2018, after a blanket ban on all ‘games of chance’ had been in place for more than 70 years.

But Brazil still hasn’t been able to implement formal regulation to the sector, leaving it in a decidely grey area when it comes to betting.

International brands like bet365, Sportingbet and others are hugely popular in the country, and 19 out of its 20 top-flight football teams now boast betting firms as some of their key sponsorship partners.

Industry consultancy H2 gambling capital estimates that a staggering R$83bn ($17bn) will be wagered in the country in 2023, with the figure set to double again over the coming years.

But still, the country’s industry suffers from a lack of regulation. 

Andre Gelfi, president of the Brazilian Institute of Responsible Gambling told the FT: Without regulation, you cannot level up to international best practice. The more formalised the market, the more effective the control of criminal activities.”

Successive governments have pledged to introduce regulation to the market in recent years, and the change appears to be getting ever closer – but with political turbulence almost the norm in Brazil, there’s no telling when exactly it will become a reality.

For now, the matter of sports integrity must be treated with the utmost respect if it is to be upheld, the article argues.

Federal lawmaker Eduardo Bandeira de Mello – who’s also a former president of Rio’s world-famous Flamengo football club – summed it up perfectly.

“The implications will be extremely serious if we do not treat the matter with the seriousness it deserves,” he said. “If it’s a weak response, it could generate a crisis of credibility in football.”

With so many recent stories springing to mind, that’s the last thing the sport needs right now. 

So long, Clive

Another story from the world of football came from the Mirror this week, which published a report on TalkSPORT commentator Clive Tyldesley’s resgination.

After Ivan Toney’s recent eight-month professional ban put football’s relationship with gambling firmly back in the spotlight, Tyldesley has decided to stand down from his role as he “felt uncomfortable at being expected to promote gambling companies and odds during live commentaries.”

While he’s said to understand the reliance of football and the media on money coming from betting advertising, Tyldesley made a personal decision to stand down in an attempt to make a difference.

“I’m not going to change anything alone but I just feel more comfortable not doing this now,” he wrote in a tweet yesterday. “Thank you to TalkSport for the opportunities and the friendships.”

Tyldesley has now agreed to undertake work with The Big Step campaign, according to the Mirror, which aims to curb the prevalence of gambling advertising and sponsorship in football.

The veteran has commentated on football matches for more than 30 years, having held the role of senior commentator at ITV between 1996 and 2020.

He also led the broadcasters commentary team at four World Cups and four European Championships, and won a string of awards for his efforts.

And still, his career in the area is far from over, and he will be working for CBS on the Champions League final this Saturday.

In the meantime, however, many TalkSPORT listeners will certainly miss him.