Melbourne Cup punters are betting with bitcoin, and there's nothing anyone can do about it

Horses race side-by-side at the end of a race.Photo: The Melbourne Cup is one of many Australian races offered on bitcoin betting sites. (AAP)

Racing season is about to hit its peak and, from Moree to Morphettville to Menangle to Moonee Valley, Australian races are attracting interest from international punters.

  • Bitcoin cannot be used on Australian gambling websites, but overseas sites allow punters to gamble with the currency
  • Bitcoin bets are difficult to trace because of the technology used
  • Some experts fear the use of bitcoin heightens match-fixing risks

And, of course, they are betting on the Melbourne Cup too.

That doesn't seem unusual until you see the website they are using.

It's called 1xBit, and its primary currency is bitcoin.

Gambling with bitcoins is not allowed on Australian sites, but that doesn't mean Australian sports aren't attracting interest on the international cryptocurrency betting market.

AFL, NRL, Super Netball, NBA, greyhounds and even suburban soccer matches can be found on bitcoin betting sites with links to countries like Estonia, Montenegro, Curacao and Cyprus.

One site even uses a web address from the British Indian Ocean Territory — a collection of barely populated atolls midway between Sumatra and Madagascar.

And it's this type of betting that is worrying those charged with keeping sport free of match-fixing.

Bitcoin's 'cloak of secrecy'

"As the use of bitcoins and other cryptocurrencies in sports betting becomes more prevalent, then the risk of match-fixing is heightened," said sports lawyer and academic Catherine Ordway.

Suspicious bets placed on unregulated offshore betting sites are already difficult for Australian authorities to monitor.

When those bets are placed by bitcoin, they are virtually untraceable, because the online payment option provides near anonymity for its users.

Explore our interactive guide to the 24 horses chasing the 2018 Melbourne Cup.

"For those who don't want integrity officers to see their betting, bitcoin adds another cloak of secrecy to it," said Ray Murrihy, the retired chief steward of Racing NSW who is now on the board of Responsible Wagering Australia.

"With bitcoin, there's no access to the identities of the parties involved.

"It's very unlikely that the casual or weekend punter is going to be involved in this.

"It's usually people that seek to hide their identity for one reason or another … perhaps people who have access to inside information."

An atoll with clouds, as seen from high above.Diego Ga ...

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Tags: Gambling, Bitcoin, Australia, Cyprus, Ray Murrihy, Catherine Ordway