Minister calls for action on sports betting

Sports bodies fighting the betting industry over ways of protecting the integrity of sport received backing from the government yesterday.

Problems in sport have been highlighted by the case of Kieren Fallon, the former champion jockey, who is currently on trial charged with attempting to defraud customers of a betting exchange. Tennis has also been hit by scandal and Betfair, the online betting company, voided all bets on a recent match after noticing suspicious betting patterns.

„Preventative action must be taken to protect sport,“ said Gerry Sutcliffe, the sports minister. „That is why I urge the betting industry to work together with the sports bodies on planned research to identify the integrity risks associated with different sports so that the betting cheats can be tackled head on.“

Mr Sutcliffe was responding to a Gambling Commission paper published yesterday, which called for greater co-operation between the betting industry and sports bo-dies.

„The Commission wants to ensure that the sports governing bodies and the betting industry share sufficient information to be able to identify risks to the integrity of sports betting,“ said Andrew Rennison, director of intelligence at the Gambling Commission. „To that end the commission encourages the relevant parties to share knowledge and best practice.“

With the growth in online betting exchanges that allow punters to take bets as well as make them, sports bodies have become increasingly concerned about the potential for athletes to profit by manipulating performance or by passing on privileged information.

To promote and uphold the integrity of sport, bodies including the British Horseracing Authority, the Football Association and the Rugby Football League, are commissioning research across all forms of betting and its effect on sport.

„The growth of betting services means that sports must remain vigilant against the negative impact it can create,“ said Tim Payton, a consultant at AS Bliss and an advisor to the sports industry. „We are committed to undertaking an independent risk assessment and welcome the minister’s decision to make sport integrity a priority issue.“

However, this research has proved a sticking point for the betting industry.

„We are happy to co-operate in every way possible with the commission,“ said Tom Kelly, chief executive at the Association of British Bookmakers. „But what we can not do is provide commercially confidential information that we, as a trade body, don’t have access to ourselves. Our members are in competition with each other and don’t want to share that information.“

Under laws that came into force under the Gambling Act on September 1, anyone cheating or helping someone to cheat in a sports bet will face jail. „Now is the time to act to ensure that the betting cheats aren’t able to get a foothold in corrupting sport,“ said Mr Sutcliffe.