British Parliamentarian Report Links Betting Exchanges to Corruption

11 February 2005

The All Party Parliamentary Group on Betting & Gaming this week published a report explaining its inquiry into the effects of increased betting on British sports. The inquiry arose from the work of the Draft Gambling Bill's joint parliamentary scrutiny committee, which had been alerted to a large number of allegations of corruption in sports due to betting--predominantly via betting exchanges--but was unable to properly address the allegations because of time constraints. The All Party Parliamentary Group, chaired by Lord Faulkner of Worcester, therefore, undertook the responsibility of examining them. The group held five oral evidence sessions in November and December 2004 and also accepted written evidence from a number of parties before publishing its conclusions and recommendations.

The status of the group is unofficial, but it does assist backbenchers in consulting with the government and in forming policy and it can exert pressure on ministers to modify policy or influence legislation. All of the group's eight members are parliamentarians, and several of them also served on the joint scrutiny committee.

The group has concluded:

"Whilst we accept that the greater part of sports betting neither corrupt nor unfair to punters, the evidence we have heard and read 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. It is demonstrably not the case however that no improprieties took place before the advent of the exchanges-the betting practices present in cricket in Asia and South Africa described to us by the ICC had little to do with the exchanges, and the history of sports in the U.K. and elsewhere in Europe over the last century are littered with incidents, allegations and, in a few cases, criminal convictions, but there is no doubt that the advent of the exchanges has brought with it new challenges to sports governing bodies, gambling regulators and government."

One of the main recommendations is, therefore, that sports bodies rise to the challenge by entering memorandums or understanding not just with betting exchanges but also with some of the major bookmakers. It is also suggested that sports betting operators should accept wagers only on those sports with which they have signed memorandums of understanding and that they should consult with the sports to determined what types of bets may be offered. Traditional bookmakers are also encouraged to implement transparent audit trails as the betting exchanges have done and to implement procedures for identifying who's responsible for large or unusual bets.

Perhaps the group's most important recommendation is that legislation creating the Gambling Commission pass during this current session of Parliament. Eight of the group's 15 recommendations involve the commission as a crucial authority in regulating punters and in monitoring and standardizing the relationship between the country's various betting operators and sports bodies.

The report spans 124 pages, although the bulk of it (102 pages) is transcripts of oral evidence or written evidence submitted by relevant parties.

Oral evidence was provided by the Association of British Bookmakers, the Betting Exchange Trade Association, the Jockey Club, the British Horseracing Board, the British Boxing Board of Control, the Football Association, the Rugby Football League, the Lawn Tennis Association, the Rugby Football Union, the National Greyhound Racing Club, the England & Wales Cricket Board and the International Cricket Council.

Written evidence includes Betfair's Code of Practice for Betting Exchanges, a submission by the Football Association, the memorandum of understanding between Betfair and the Rugby Football League, a memorandum by the Financial Services Authority, a submission by Cricket Australia, a submission by the Anti-Corruption and Security Unit of the International Cricket Council, the Use of Personal Data in the Investigation of Corruption in Sport used by the National Association of Data Protection Officers and the Integrity in Sport used by the Association of Tennis Professionals.

Click here to view the All Party Group on Betting and Gaming's report.