Sports betting integrity – a matter of simplification and cooperation

Policy Manager Leigh Thompson blogs about last week’s Sports Betting Integrity Forum event held at Lord’s Cricket Ground and identifies some of the key lessons from the day.

Last week I attended an event hosted by the Sports Betting Integrity Forum (SBIF) entitled ‘Are you playing with integrity?’ Overall the event provided a great deal of food for thought but, in keeping with a key theme of this blog, I’ll keep it simple and start with the key takeaways from the day for sports governing bodies:

 ·        Don’t bury your head in the sand and hope betting corruption won’t be an issue in your sport. Be proactive and start putting measures in place now. 

·        Help is available – visit the Sports Betting Group website to download the Code of Practice and other resources or, alternatively, contact us here.

·        Engage with betting operators and the Gambling Commission’s Sports Betting Intelligence Unit – they can help you to understand the betting on your sport and facilitate the sharing of suspicious betting information.

Held at Lord’s Cricket Ground, the event brought together a range of sports governing bodies, competition organisers and betting operators to consider the national approach to tackling sports betting corruption and to share knowledge and good practice.

 Alongside the event, the Sports Betting Group (SBG) launched a new website and a revised Code of Practice to provide governing bodies with the tools and resources to protect their sports from betting corruption. SBG members also ran a session at the event to illustrate how governing bodies can put the Code into practice within their sports.

 From my perspective, as a member of the Sports Betting Group, the event was a useful opportunity to meet representatives from the sport and betting sectors to discuss the issues in more detail and to gauge the understanding of betting integrity risks amongst sports governing bodies in particular. 

 It is important the Sports Betting Group provides the right information to equip sports bodies with the tools and knowledge to tackle sports betting corruption and, having reflected on the conversations I had at the event, a couple of themes stand out.

Firstly, I have realised how easy it is to exist in what might be termed an ‘integrity bubble’ where everyone you talk to is a specialist who understands the language and acronyms common to discussions about betting integrity (and let’s face it, we love our acronyms: SBIF, SBIU, SBG, MoU, CoE… the list is endless). However, outside this bubble, the reality is that in most governing bodies the people charged with the responsibility for betting integrity are not full-time specialists and often have a wide range of other, additional duties to fulfil. 

 As such, if we’re to really assist those in sports governing bodies that have limited experience of betting corruption to understand the emerging integrity risks to their sport, we need to ensure the way we communicate is clear, simple and easy to understand. Not only that, we need to make sure that sports governing bodies have access to the tools and support they need to put protective measures in place. In this regard, I’m confident that the new Sports Betting Group website and the resources it contains will be of real benefit.

Secondly, the event highlighted the willingness of betting operators to assist sports governing bodies on integrity issues – for example, by sharing detailed information to assist investigations into suspected betting corruption and breaches of sports rules. It is probably fair to say sport and betting have been uncomfortable bedfellows in the past so it is refreshing to see this increased level of engagement. It also serves as a helpful reminder that sports betting corruption will never be addressed properly if sport and betting operators simply point the finger at each other – cooperation is key. 

In this respect it is no surprise that the Sports Betting Group Code of Practice identifies the introduction of information sharing agreements as one of the key actions governing bodies should take to ensure they can access suspicious betting information to support the investigation and potential prosecution of betting offences. Likewise, the Sports Betting Group website now contains links to governing bodies’ betting rules and reporting contacts. This information should assist betting operators in identifying when bets are placed in breach of sports rules and who they can contact within governing bodies should this occur. 

Ultimately, the day was an important reminder that sport has a responsibility for protecting integrity but also that discharging this responsibility can be made a lot easier by utilising the support and resources that are already out there. The key is to keep it simple and cooperate.