Tue, Feb 7, 10:16am by Kevin Pitstock
With the London Olympics just 171 days away, governments, law enforcement agencies and betting operators agreed last week to work more closely together to fight illegal betting and corruption in sports. The call comes ahead of the 2012 London Olympics which are set to record phenomenal figures for Olympics betting on the back of a huge global rise in sports betting.
The International Olympic Committee hosted a meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland of sports leaders, government ministers, licensed betting operators, lottery companies and the international police agency Interpol. One year after the IOC opened talks to coordinate anti-corruption efforts, delegates reviewed progress reports from three working groups and agreed to create a panel to monitor progress worldwide. Games officials want governments to do more to tackle illegal betting, match-fixing and other corrupt activities, which they say could pose a bigger threat to sport than doping.
The only Australian in attendance was Richard Eccles, the Deputy Secretary representing Australia’s Sports Minister Mark Abib. While Betfair’s global Head of Integrity, Andy Cunnigham sat in on the meeting, none of Australia’s other licensed wagering operators, nor representatives from any of our nations sports integrity bodies, were present.
According to the IOC’s press release, there was “a consensus around the table that sporting fraud should be a criminal offense” and that “A lot needs to be done on the government side and the cooperation between police and justice around the world. There is a sense of urgency.”
Still, six months before the 2012 London Olympics, sports bodies were urged to advise athletes and their entourages how to protect themselves from approaches by an illegal gambling industry believed to be worth tens of billions of dollars annually.
International federations were instructed to go ahead and produce relevant guidelines. That is going to happen a lot more quickly than creating legislation.
The IOC cited Britain, France and Australia as models for enacting laws that empowered investigations and prosecutions of match-fixing and corrupt gambling, such as those seen recently with regard to NRL and AFL betting scandals.
We hope that this example will be imposed upon others, and sooner or later they will be encouraged and forced to adopt similar rules,” De Kepper said.
Interpol has estimated that illegal betting is worth $US140 billion ($A132 billion) a year and involves organised crime gangs and money laundering.
The Olympic body will continue to lead efforts despite some calls to create an independent global body similar to the World Anti-Doping Agency.
“All are agreeing that increased cooperation is needed and that the IOC coordinating the efforts is the right way to move on with this issue,” De Kepper said.
Talks on how legal betting operators will help finance the initiative are also scheduled for future meetings.
Meanwhile, betting firms were urged to share their intelligence in monitoring markets, including with Interpol and organizers of sports events.
“Betting operators also have their obligations to detect the frauds and to transmit this information to prosecutors,” De Kepper said.
The IOC expects to hold a third annual summit in early 2013.
Another recommendation urges governments to adopt legislation making “sports fraud” a criminal offence, enabling prosecution and penalties for match-fixing and other activities, De Kepper said.
The IOC is intent on taking action before the London Olympics, which will run from July 27 to August 12, but said the threats are greater outside the Games.
“We’ve been told by experts that probably the Games are not the priority target either for illegal or irregular betting,” De Kepper said. “But we have the measures in place so that if something happened we would be ready to act.”
2012 London Olympics betting this year is set to far and away exceed betting levels of the 2008 Beijing Olympics as the interest parallels the massive surge in sports betting seen in the intervening four years.
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