Betting Operators: Act on Fixing Or Be Forced To

AGBSport and sport gambling are two sides of a coin, even if sport itself is in many ways unenthusiastic about the relationship. Some in sports are even contemptuous of the link but this ultimately will be to their own cost. There never has been and there never will be a way of entirely dissociating these two acutely human entertainments.

While gamblers can bet on most sports, football, or “soccer” as it is called by our less global cousins, is by a long measure the most gambled on sport globally. Many of the players in top European competitions originate from other parts of the world. Nearly 30 percent of players with top European clubs come from Africa and nearly 15 percent from South America. Some club and league owners, managers and administrators also hail from these regions.

In short, the top European football competitions are assuredly international in nature and,whether actually true or not, they are widely considered to be more competitive and safer fromcorruption in the field of play than competitions held in most other parts of the world.

Nobody can possibly dispute that the highest daily betting trades on sport from anywhere in the world are transacted in southeast Asia. Few would dispute that the largest sport betting traders by volume have their primary business registrations in the Philippines. Fewer still would dispute that illegal trust based cash gambling on sport centers around Chinese and overseas Chinese or that VIP and junket tours to regional high-end casinos from China, with cash held in trust there, is ballooning.

Overall the world of sport betting, or “gaming” as some like to say to soften the terminology, well knows that southeast Asia is the epicenter. There are significant volumes in Europe and the Americas, but they do not come close to matching southeast Asian volumes today.This global dominance has developed in less than a decade and it shows no sign of waning.

On the other side of the coin, in sports today there are unprecedented levels of corrupted field of play results that have been specifically arranged for betting fraud, whether through cheating, tricking or corrupting the bet traders and in turn the general gambler. The growing number of corrupted competitions and specific sporting events that are confirmed as fixed for betting fraud let alone the far larger number of suspected fixed outcomes is challenging the very character and even viability of some sports and competitions internationally.

This malevolent linkage between sport and sport betting is powered by crime and increasingly it is transnational organised crime that is exerting control in this illicit field. Sports’ international controlling bodies do not generally have clear cut control of the integrity of the sports they govern. Many don’t really want it anyway and prefer to protect their global image and brand by deflecting responsibility to either national or regional versions of themselves, or to police, or to governments. Nevertheless, the best any sport can do is apply robust prevention and protection measures and ban transgressors from further participation in the sport. They cannot investigate organised crime and they cannot control or regulate sport betting.

Sport betting and sport gaming businesses leverage sport to their gambling customers with really little or no concern for the overall efficacy of the sport. The market appeal is on every minute of the day, and market morality says “take and expand the business any way you can”. And that is what is happening. Yes, sport monitoring companies are contracted and sport and media websites, and all and any source of match or competition announcements, are trawled to determine the daily competition offerings for “the book”.

Almost none of this is done in partnership with sport or in the interest of sport. Betting and market movements are monitored primarily to progressively determine the price and to decide whether a match should stay on the book and not really to assist sport to deal with corruption. That might be a by product of betting monitoring, but even so, it is not a serious intention of this internal process today anyway.

However, if for no other reason than maintaining the interest of sport gambling customers, sport betting and sport gaming businesses need to develop a coalition with sport bodies to help them keep their competitions and matches clean and corruption free. While it is clear that sport betting businesses are market competitive, it would not conflict with the notion of competition to have a collectively managed fraud detection and reporting mechanism, whether to sport or to police or judicial authorities. Such a collective platform of live information exchange to support and initiate both criminal and sport field actions, designed to protect both betting and sport by prevention and occasional prosecution, would also satisfy the growing interest of governments in this field.

It is in the direct commercial interests of sport betting and gaming companies to collectively self regulate and collectively protect themselves and sport from fraud and corruption with real measures rather than the few existing regional and plastic ones. Not doing this seriously and collectively will ultimately lead to a loss of some commercial self determination.

The serious irritation of some powerful governments and international organisations is growing. The power of these circumstances to drive unwelcomed interventions should not be underestimated. The sport betting and gaming business can avoid being caught in the maelstrom if it starts taking serious cross platform action now.

They don’t need to change business models. They don’t need to change their market competitive nature. They just need to agree on providing live and retrospective information and support to a non commercial platform that brings together the corruption protection and prevention interests of sport, governments, regulators and betting operators.

_______________________

Chris Eaton

Director Sport Integrity

The International Centre for Sport Security

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