Friday, April 18, 2008

Betfair Demands Action to Curb Sports Betting Cheating

A new relationship is needed between the sports and betting industries if the fight against corruption and cheating is to be won, one of the world’s leading internet betting operators has said recently.

Betfair, the giant online sports betting company, called on sport everywhere to use all the tools that are being provided for it by the legal and regulated betting industry, and to recognize that using those tools alongside better education of participants and stronger sanctions against cheats is the most effective solution to rooting out any problem.

Making the keynote speech at the Global Leaders in Sport conference in Auckland, New Zealand, Mark Davies, managing director at Betfair, said when it comes to issues of corruption, sport is often looking at the wrong target: only participants can rig events, and focusing on the growth in betting, or the growth in the number of people betting, is futile. He encouraged sports regulators to work with any betting operator which was prepared to share information relating to the names of people whose bets are suspicious.

He said: “Sports regulators today should expect information on what betting is taking place on their product, and – and I cannot over-emphasize this enough – by whom, in order to allow them to fulfill their role of policing sport.

“The only way to know whether players are being corrupted is to have the names of the people behind the bets. Any attempts to look at the betting quantum and make judgments on it are absolutely doomed to failure. Sport needs to put itself in a position where it has access to named information, wherever it can get it. If it is not doing that, it is not using the tools available. I find it amazing that any sporting body would turn down named information from a betting operator willing to provide it with no strings attached, and yet there are plenty which do.”

While emphasizing Betfair’s belief that corruption and cheating in sport is far more limited than recent speculation has suggested, Davies suggested that the reluctance of sport to accept that the legal and regulated market offers solutions rather than posing problems is limiting the ability of both to deal with what problems may exist. He said that betting scandals traditionally have emanated from illegal, unregulated markets.

Speaking to 200 delegates from four continents, Davies pointed out the perils of opaque and illegal markets, and suggested that embracing the transparent and regulated market was the best way to counteract problems of match-fixing.

He said: “Imagine a world where bookmaking is illegal. Take Betfair, and Ladbrokes, and William Hill, and everyone else you care to mention which is governed by proper regulation, and close them all down. What happens to sport’s [betting] problem then? Does it go away, stay the same, or get bigger? Clearly, it gets bigger. The Hansie Cronje story shows you that.”

Davies reiterated Betfair’s commitment to pay sports bodies a percentage of the profits achieved on betting on events run under their jurisdiction, but resisted the idea that any payment should be linked to integrity.

“The regulated betting industry today is not some backwater of corruption in smoke-filled rooms, but a modern leisure industry which engages its customers and allows them to get involved on a participatory level that enhances their enjoyment. It harnesses those customers, and wants to do so in partnership with sport rather than at the expense of sport. The legal and regulated betting companies around the world want to work with sport, not against it. But they need sports bodies to recognise that it isn’t betting that causes problems, but corruption.”