Gambling: Toughen up on betting cheats, inquiry urges

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The Independent Online

The growth of betting exchanges has made British sport more vulnerable to corruption according to a parliamentary inquiry, and the government has been challenged to increase "derisory" proposed punishments in an attempt to deter cheating.

A report by the all-party Parliamentary Betting and Gaming Group of MPs and peers, published yesterday, said: "Whilst we accept that the greater part of sports betting is neither corrupt nor unfair to punters, the evidence convinces us that the growth of betting exchanges - because of the facility they provide to bet against a result - has increased the potential for corruption."

The group made 15 recommendations that it believes would reduce corruption related to sports betting, including one from Lord Condon - the head of the International Cricket Council's anti-corruption unit - for tougher jail sentences for offenders. In his evidence to the inquiry, Condon, the former Metropolitan Police Commissioner, told MPs that the proposed maximum penalty of two years in prison for cheating was "derisory".

While betting exchanges were highlighted for their potential to allow corruption, the inquiry also recommended that all bookmakers should set up the kind of anti-corruption "audit trails" that have been pioneered by a leading exchange, Betfair. These trails basically involve the company that brokers a bet requesting personal and financial information from gamblers, who know it could be passed on to investigating authorities in the event of suspicious activity.

Betfair, which has "memorandums of agreement" to supply information to numerous sports governing bodies, including those regulating horse racing, football, cricket and tennis, has already provided information that has led to punishments for cheating.

However, it is unlikely that conventional high street bookmakers will agree to audit trails, nor indeed be able to. "How do you have an audit trail on a cash business, for example when someone walks into a shop and places a 10p yankee?" said Graham Sharpe, a spokesman for William Hill. "In any case, there is no legislation that empowers us to establish audit trails, and no overriding reason why we should inconvenience a vast majority of blameless punters."