• Betting-related corruption a major threat to Games, says IOC
• Met will have unit dedicated to tackling illegal gambling
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has signed an information-sharing agreement with Betfair, the largest online betting exchange, as part of an attempt to clamp down on the threat of corruption ahead of the London 2012 Games. Betfair has similar memorandums of understanding with other governing bodies, laying out a framework for sharing information on suspect betting patterns and other integrity issues.
The IOC president Jacques Rogge and the sports minister Hugh Robertson have both warned that the potential for betting-related corruption is a major threat to the success of the Games. The IOC has a unit dedicated to tracking suspicious betting patterns and the government has amended the Gambling Act to allow the UK watchdog the Gambling Commission to share information with the Lausanne-based international governing body.
Betfair is based offshore and therefore not licensed by the Gambling Commission, but the company points to its agreements with major governing bodies as evidence of its commitment to clamping down on corruption. Betfair has a dedicated integrity team, aided by specialist software, that tracks every bet placed and laid on the site from its London headquarters.
The Metropolitan police will also have a specialist unit dedicated to the issue. Betfair, like other major bookmakers, will be offering a market on every gold medal that is being competed for at the Games.
“The interests of sports governing bodies, like the IOC, and Betfair are completely aligned in wanting to ensure consumers can bet on sporting events in a transparent and secure manner,” said Martin Cruddace, Betfair’s chief legal and regulatory affairs officer. “If we are to protect the sports we all love then we must continue to work openly and co-operatively, and today’s agreement is a clear example of just that.”
But although working with legal bookmakers to monitor suspect bets is seen as an important plank of the IOC’s strategy, the largest threat to the integrity of the Games is more likely to come from the huge illegal betting markets in east Asia.
Rogge told the Guardian last year that betting-related corruption was now as big a threat to the integrity of sport as doping. “It is a world problem and it is a very pernicious problem. With the introduction of broadband, you can bet worldwide,” he said. “The danger is that from illegal betting comes match-fixing and you see more and more attempts to manipulate matches. It is as dangerous as doping for the credibility of sport. It’s only the beginning of a huge battle.”
The rapid pace of technological change that has facilitated a global market, huge illegal betting markets in Asia, and the rewards on offer for those tempted to cheat, have combined to make the threat of match-fixing and betting corruption a huge issue for sports governing bodies.
Government legislation to require offshore bookmakers to register with the Gambling Commission and legally require them to share information on suspect bets is not likely to be in place before the Olympics.