Governing bodies seek action on high-risk bets

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The Independent Football

A coalition of every major sports governing body in Britain, including the Football Association and the Premier League, last night accused the government of being "complacent" about the "very serious threat" of corruption that arises through the provision of certain "high-risk" markets by the gambling industry.

The governing bodies want some bet types banned or strictly regulated, as well as more passing of information from bookmakers to governing bodies and funding to police the integrity of sport. Only government can legislate on this, via the Gambling Commission, and despite the coalition "consistently warning" the GC about the easy potential for corruption, it believes not enough has been done to stop it.

Yesterday's revelation in The Independent that a footballer had colluded with a bookmaker for profit by getting himself sent off is one example of a high-risk betting market making corruption simple. It is possible to bet, for example, on whether there will be a red card in a match, and also on tallies of red cards, via spread betting.

In tennis it is possible to bet on double faults and in cricket on whether the first ball of a match will be a wide. These and other examples show sport's vulnerability as a result of certain specialist bets that sport has no control over. One football governing body source told The Independent yesterday: "We know there's a door open to corruption, we know measures could be taken to make corruption harder. But we are powerless to shut the door. That needs legislation."

Tim Payton, a spokes-man on behalf of the coalition – which includes the FA, the Premier League, the RFU and RFL (rugby union and league), the LTA (tennis), the BHA (horse racing), the ECB (cricket) and the BDO (darts) – said: "The sports bodies take the threat from betting very seriously.

"The sports have consistently warned the Gambling Commission that the growth in sports betting threatens their integrity. The sports want stricter regulation of high-risk bets and the right to receive more information on the type of bets being placed.

"The Government cannot afford to be complacent on this issue. The sports have presented them with detailed proposals... that need implementing as soon as possible."

Around £38bn is spent each year on sports betting in Britain and the coalition members want around £3-5m – collectively – to "police the integrity" of all members. This would pay to monitor betting, collate intelligence on scams, set up legal and disciplinary measures and provide education. At the moment the sports do this individually. Aside from a horse racing levy of around £2m, the gambling industry pays nothing towards this.

The Gambling Commission is sponsored by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. A DCMS spokesperson said: "The Government is aware that a number of sports bodies are in discussion with the betting industry and supports the efforts they are making to forge voluntary arrangements to address this issue. The Gambling Commission continues to regulate gambling in this country and has extensive powers. The Government will continue to monitor this issue."

When asked why high-risk bets are not banned or more strictly regulated the spokesperson said: "The Gambling Commission are best placed to answer this."

The Gambling Commission's position is that "bookmakers already risk-assess all bets offered and scrutinise all bets that pose any form of risk." The Commission says "it would not be be appropriate to restrict the categories of betting opportunity".

One problem for the government in seeking to impose stricter legislation is the fear that gambling firms will move offshore. This creates two problems: first that the industry moves out of the jurisdiction of legislation and second that the government risks losing lucrative revenue streams.

In a report sent to the Gambling Commission last August, the coalition warned the government against complacency. It cited examples of scandals few believed would happen, including examples in cricket (Hansie Cronje) and Italian football (the Serie A scandal).

The coalition said: "It is complacent to assume that incidents that have occurred overseas will not be replicated in the UK... we must remain vigilant to ensure similar incidents of this scale do not attack British sport."

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