Eleven Charged in UK Racing Investigation

6 July 2006

A City of London Police investigation into horse race fixing is back in the spotlight after 11 individuals, including champion jockey Kieren Fallon, have been charged with offenses related to race fixing.

Given the codename "Operation Krypton," the investigation focuses on over 80 races that took place between December 2002 and September 2004 and was first brought to the public's attention in September 2004 when Fallon and 15 other individuals were arrested on racing corruption allegations. Betting exchange Betfair, through a memorandum of understanding with the Horseracing Regulatory Authority (previously known as the Jockey Club), was instrumental in providing evidence for the investigation.

Twenty-eight people appeared in a London court Monday on charges related to race fixing, but 17 were released and only 11 were charged. Among those charged were Fallon and two lesser-known jockeys, Fergal Lynch and Darren Williams. All three face the charge of "conspiracy to defraud Betfair customers."

The memorandum of understanding signed between Betfair and the U.K. Jockey Club in late 2002 allows the Jockey Club (Horseracing Regulatory Authority) to view Betfair's wagering records in situations where suspicious activity is reasonably suspected. The Jockey Club turned over the evidence it gathered from Betfair's records to City of London Police, which eventually resulted in the September 2004 arrests and--nearly two years later--Monday's charges.

"The amount of work undertaken by the investigation team has been immense," said Detective Chief Superintendent Steve Wilmott, head of the city economic crime division. "During the course of the investigation, we have arrested 34 people, conducted over 500 interviews, taken more than 1,300 statements and provided over 5,000 exhibits and nearly 40,000 pages of evidence to the Crown Prosecution Service and counsel."

Pictures of Fallon standing outside the courthouse before his hearing have flooded British newspapers this week. Fallon, a six-time champion jockey of Britain and winner of three derbies, is easily the most recognizable jockey of his generation.

Fallon first became mired in race fixing allegations in March 2004 when he failed to ride out a victory after obtaining a huge lead midway through a race. Betfair is said to have contacted the Jockey Club shortly before the race to report suspicious betting patterns, and the race was apparently so suspect even to racing fans that it incited an angry crowd of bettors to heckle and jeer Fallon outside the weighing room.

Later that week, News of the World reported that some of its undercover journalists had posed as bettors and gotten Fallon to agree to throw the race. Fallon has denied the claims and in March 2005 filed a law suit against News of the World for printing allegedly libelous articles about him. Fallon and all of the other individuals who face corruption charges have denied any wrong doing.

The Horseracing Regulatory Authority has revoked the licenses of Fallon and the other two jockeys, but a panel of the body is expected to reinstate their licenses on Friday, after it reinstated the license of trainer Alan Berry on Tuesday. The panel seems to be of the opinion that suspending the licenses until a jury decides the cases would put the men out of business and ruin their livelihood and is, therefore, taking an "innocent until proven guilty" approach.

Fallon last year relocated to Ireland where he now does the majority of his racing, and the suspension of his license has no affect on his ability to race in Ireland.

Commenting on the charges, Denis Egan, chief executive of the Irish Turf Club, stated, "The licensing committee will obviously note what has happened, but as far as we are concerned, Kieren Fallon is innocent until proven guilty."

Publicly, the British horse racing officials are stating that it does not expect public confidence in racing to falter as a result of Monday's charges. "The current investigations into Italian football clubs and the actions of German referee Robert Hoyzer involving match fixing could hardly be said to have reduced interest in and betting on the World Cup," said Chris Brand, acting CEO of the British Horseracing Board. "People can be credited with the necessary intelligence not to conclude that, because a small number of people are charged with criminal actions, an entire sport cannot be trusted."

Since the creation of betting exchanges, which present punters with the innovative concept of wagering that a particular horse will not win a race, debate has raged on about what sort of effect betting exchanges have upon the integrity of racing and sports. Opponents of betting exchanges argue that they provides an easy incentive for jockeys, trainers and others with inside information to wager that a horse will lose and then purposely insure that it happens. Those who support betting exchanges claim that memorandums of understanding and the consequent sharing of betting records with sports organizations provides a level of transparency that is able to identify such suspicious betting behavior.

Bradley Vallerius

Articles by Bradley P. Vallerius, JD manages For the Bettor Good, a comprehensive resource for information related to Internet gaming policy in the U.S. federal and state governments. For the Bettor Good provides official government documents, jurisdiction updates, policy analysis, and many other helpful research materials. Bradley has been researching and writing about the business and law of internet gaming since 2003. His work has covered all aspects of the industry, including technology, finance, advertising, taxation, poker, betting exchanges, and laws and regulations around the world.

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