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Organised crime estimated to launder over US$140 billion annually through sport betting

Organised crime estimated to launder over US$140 billion annually through sport betting
May 18, 2014
Legal / Sport /

The University Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne and the International Centre for Sport Security (ICSS) have this week released ground-breaking results from a two-year research program into sport corruption.

The study includes startling figures on the scale and scope of the sport-betting market, which is identified as the primary purpose for match-fixing. The report also provides detailed analysis of current efforts to combat corruption and presents guiding principles including practical steps that can be taken by sport, governments and betting.

With the revelation that US$140 billion is laundered annually through sport betting, and that 80% of global sport betting is illegally transacted, and therefore invisible to regulators and investigators, the Report identifies that the clear responsibility is with countries and governments to disrupt and correct the vulnerability of sport betting to transnational organised crime.

According to the Sorbonne-ICSS Report - ‘Protecting the Integrity of Sport Competition: The Last Bet for Modern Sport’ - the manipulation of sport competition and betting threatens all countries and regions, with football and cricket the sports most under siege. Other sports affected include: tennis, basketball, badminton and motor racing.

The report states that the most manipulated competitions are at a national level but highlights that the ‘fixing’ of competition and betting is instigated at a transnational level.

The report shows that manipulation takes place in the context of a growing sports economy, which now accounts for 2% of the global GDP, with a transnational sports-betting market of estimated wagers worth between €200 - 500 billion, more than 80% of which is illegal.

The findings reveal:

• Asia and Europe represents 85% of the total legal and illegal market

• Europe makes up 49% of the legal market, while Asia makes up 53% of the illegal market

• Legal sports betting currently delivers only €4 billion of official tax revenues for countries

• More than 8,000 legal operators offer sports betting - 80% are in territories with a low rate of tax and few inspections.

• The number of illegal operators is impossible even to estimate

The advent of the internet has led to an unprecedented expansion of sport betting offers, with online betting now representing 30% of the global market.

The sports betting market has been transformed into a multi-billion dollar industry with betting exchanges, live betting, betting on more low-profile events and derivative betting formulas, as well as higher return rates for bettors.

Significantly though, the evolution of the betting regulatory models hasn’t kept up, with authorities often ill-equipped to deal with the illegal and under-regulated betting, together with the related issues of manipulation and money laundering.

ICSS Director of Sport Integrity Chris Eaton explains “the rapid evolution of the global sports betting market has seen an increased risk of infiltration by organised crime and money laundering. Alongside this, the transformation of the nature of betting, with more complex types of betting, such as live-betting, which according to this study is the most vulnerable, has made suspect activity even harder to detect.

“Whilst monitoring systems are essential, more fundamental questions need to be addressed and this Sorbonne-ICSS Sport Integrity Report is a crucial first step in understanding the complex relationship between the sinister phenomenon of sports betting fraud and the more publically-reprehensible and visible manipulation of sporting competitions.”

The Report makes it clear that combating manipulation requires cooperation between the sports movement, public authorities and betting operators. It suggests that the main limitations of current measures are: a lack of cooperation between stakeholders on a national level, insufficient cooperation on an international level, relatively young and informal stakeholder relationships and the disparate response of sports federations.

The Report suggests that prevention and education are vital, yet notes that 60% of the initiatives identified were launched in the last 18 months, with 40% developed in Europe mainly in football, tennis, cricket and rugby.

Improving the governance of sports organisations is identified as another priority, as well as developing effective sports betting regulations and equipping regulatory authorities with effective powers and means. This could include the establishment of a blacklist of illegal operators agreed across borders, blocking payments and withholding licences from betting operators on another country’s blacklists. The Report also recommends that sports betting operators cooperate with sports bodies through, for example, enhanced monitoring systems and the exchange of intelligence in cases of breaches of sports regulations or national legislation.

As well as exploring prevention, the report identifies the priorities in the battle to repress corruption. It suggests that the sports movement must view sports’ disciplinary measures and criminal repression as complementary, with a need for unification and a harmonisation of sports’ disciplinary rules.

Laurent Vidal, Chair of the Sorbonne-ICSS Research Program commented “the Report reveals the startling scale of sport corruption and betting fraud and the limitations of current preventative measures. Furthermore, it is clear that current international instruments are insufficient and there is a desperate need for well-designed criminal laws specific to the manipulation of sport. An international agreement on the manipulation of sport competition, coordinated by an overarching global platform, is now an urgent necessity.”

As part of its findings, the Sorbonne-ICSS Report provides Guiding Principles for governments, sports organisations, betting regulators and operators to adopt in order to combat match-fixing and illegal betting.

These recommendations include: creating a sports betting tax to finance investigations into match-fixing and illegal-betting, determination of an integrity risk assessment and management system for sports organisations and prohibiting players, coaches and administrators from betting on competitions and matches within their sport.

ICSS President Mohammed Hanzab concluded “the Sorbonne-ICSS Report on Sport Integrity represents a historic moment, not only for the ICSS, but in the fight to protect and preserve the integrity of sport.

“With reports of match-fixing and corruption now plaguing sport on a daily basis, it is time for key organisations in sport, betting and government to step forward and work together to eradicate these problems once at for all.

“I hope that this extensive and comprehensive two-year project between the ICSS and University Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne will provide a clear call to action and move forward plans for the creation of a coordinated international integrity platform. This is crucial, not only to safeguard the credibility and integrity of sport, but to ensure we protect the very morals and ethics that sport was founded upon.”

Click here to access the Executive Summary of the Sorbonne-ICSS Sport Integrity Report Protecting the Integrity of Sport Competition: The Last Bet for Modern Sport.

Click here to read a full copy of the Sorbonne-ICSS Guiding Principles for Protecting the Integrity of Sport Competition.





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