England's New Sports Betting Code of Practice

1 March 2005

The U.K. government is moving forward with a new sports betting code of practice. The document was drafted after officials of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport met with members of Parliament to review the new U.K. Gambling Bill, and comes on the heels of the a highly controversial German betting scandal in which a football referee has been accused of betting on games he was working.

Sports Minister Richard Caborn said the process was part of the "government crackdown on betting cheats."

"When British punters see what's happening in Germany, they'd be forgiven for worrying whether something like that might happen here," Caborn said. "We need to do everything we can to maintain British sport's reputation for the highest levels of integrity in the world."

The Jockey Club and the Football Association signed the new code this week, becoming the first sanctioning bodies from the sports world to do so, and Caborn applauded them for taking a leadership role.

"I'm delighted that two of the most bet on sports--racing and football--are leading the way," he said. "With betting on other sports growing all the time, I want to see all the other governing bodies signing up."

At the heart of the new code is a concept that betting exchange Betfair helped introduce years ago in response to speculation that exchanges were conducive to betting scandals. The group signed memorandums of understanding with leading sports organizations calling for a free exchange of data between participating parties when unusual betting patterns are detected.

The DCMS included similar language in the new code, along with agreeing to hand over betting information to statutory authorities. The code also includes rules on the misuse of privileged information and ensures that athletes cooperate fully with investigations.

Officials with the DCMS said they were pleased with the final workings of the code and that although it is not a foolproof measure, it is a significant step to avoiding betting scandals.

"It won't stop cheating by itself, but it's another piece of the jigsaw that will eventually be filled in by the Gambling Commission, and it means we're tightening the net around the cheats," the department said in a prepared statement.

John Maxse, a spokesperson for the Jockey Club, said the massive amount of betting turnover generated from U.K. racing made it important for the Jockey Club to get behind the code.

"More than one in 10 people in Britain bet on horseracing each year, and last year over £8 billion was bet on the sport," Maxse said. "That means we are ahead of others sports in the experience of dealing with integrity threats, and we were happy to assist and advise the DCMS on the lessons we've learned and the steps we've taken."

The government is calling on all participants to appoint a betting integrity "champion" as a liaison between the body and other sports institutions, bookmakers and regulators.

Maxse said it was easy for the Jockey Club to sign the agreement because the group was already compliant with all of the conditions in the code.

"We fully conform with the government's code of practice, so the real beneficiaries should be the governing bodies in other sports, and those people who bet on them," he said.

The full Code of Practice is as follows:

General principles

To protect the integrity of betting on sport; to safeguard participants and consumers; to develop relationships with sporting regulators, betting operators, statutory organizations and government departments.

The ten-point plan

The sporting authority will:

  • seek to embody principles underpinning the plan

  • include provisions in rules and regulations governing behaviour of participants in relation to betting

  • expect participants to avoid any situation, in context of betting, that may involve conflict of interest with the sport and/or may undermine confidence of public; participants will not misuse privileged information

  • not avoid taking necessary action when they suspect or are aware of betting activity that threatens integrity of sport and objectives of code of practice

    co-operate with and, if appropriate, enter into information sharing agreements with relevant statutory authorities in context of sports betting (eg, police, Customs & Excise, National Criminal Intelligence Service, Gambling Commission

  • further to commitment above, take responsibility for pro-actively passing appropriate information or knowledge of corrupt practices (eg, race/match fixing scam) to relevant authorities (eg, police, Customs & Excise)

  • endeavour to work with bookmakers or betting operators where they seek to enter into information sharing agreements

  • share best practice in maintaining integrity in sports betting with other sporting authorities

  • seek to ensure that participants co-operate fully with any investigation conducted by them, and expect them to provide full disclosure of information in any investigation

  • nominate a person/department with special responsibility for betting issues

Nobody knows where Kevin Smith came from. He simply showed up one day and started writing articles for IGN. We liked him, so we decided to keep him. We think you'll like him too. Kevin can be reached at kevin@igamingnews.com.