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|Illegal betting markets launder £83bn a year, reveals
calls for sports betting tax to finance investigations
advised to beef up regulation of bookmakers
A new study revealing that $140bn (£83bn) in
illicit funds are laundered through illegal betting markets annually has
prompted renewed calls for governments to step up their efforts to tackle the
problem, and associated match-fixing issues.
A two-year study by the
Paris-Sorbonne University and the International Centre for Sport Security
estimated the overall size of the market at between $200bn and $500bn, more
than 80% of which is wagered on illegal markets.
But while the illegal markets in Asia and the Far
East are regularly blamed for allowing corruption to flourish, with new
high-profile fixing cases in football, cricket and other sports emerging on a
regular basis, the report also highlighted the influence of the
lightly-regulated "grey" market.
Thousands of bookmakers are based in
jurisdictions where betting is legal but regulation is so light that the owners
of the companies are able to remain anonymous.
Of the 8,000-plus
operators that offer legal sports betting services around the world, more than
80% are based in lightly-regulated markets. The report found that the number of
illegal operators was "impossible to even estimate".
The report was published as it emerged the
International Cricket Council's anti-corruption unit was assessing evidence of
widespread fixing obtained from the former New Zealand Test batsman Lou
Vincent, which is believed to include allegations relating to matches in the
English domestic Twenty20 Cup and Pro40 competition.
Chris Eaton, the
former Fifa head of security who is now director of integrity at the
Qatar-funded ICSS, said that the report's findings were the first step in
understanding the relationship between the huge unregulated bookmakers, betting
fraud and the gangs of matchfixers in eastern Europe and Asia that have preyed
on a range of sports in recent years.
"It shows that we've been
attacking the wrong end of the problem in focusing on matchfixing and the
actions of players, administrators and umpires," said Eaton. "We must also
tackle the unregulated betting market, which is so vulnerable to betting fraud.
That is a government responsibility, not a sport responsibility. Governments
are very adept at making match fixing a sports matter."
for more co-operation between governments and for organisations such as Unesco
to take a lead in coordinating international action. He said an operation
similar to the concerted clampdown on money laundering through the
international banking system in the 1990s was required.
calls for more cooperation between government, sports governing bodies and the
legal bookmaking industry to attack the problem from both ends. Among its
recommendations are the creation of a sports betting tax to finance
investigations into match-fixing and illegal betting, a move that would go down
badly with the betting industry.
It also calls for an integrity risk
assessment and management system for sports organisations and an outright ban
on players, coaches and administrators betting on competitions and matches in
In the wake of an outbreak of alleged matchfixing in the
Football League and English non-league football, the FA is considering plans to
extend its rules prohibiting players from gambling on competitions in which
they have an interest to an outright ban on all betting.
also calls for more effective regulation, including the establishment of an
international blacklist of illegal operators agreed across boards, and greater
sharing of intelligence between nations and sports. It said an international
agreement on the manipulation of sport competition was an "urgent necessity".
Eaton also called for a shift in the approach to tackling match fixing.
Wilson Raj Perumal, a notorious Singaporean football matchfixer who helped
police in Finland establish the extent of his reach and influence, recently
wrote a memoir in which he detailed the extent of his activities from
fixing international friendlies to corrupting entire leagues. But he remains
one of very few serious matchfixers who has been caught.
investigation needs to be preventative rather than prosecution-based. You need
to disrupt them and destroy their access to markets," said Eaton. "You may now
only be seeing the capture of the incredibly stupid criminal. That doesn't mean
there are not incredibly smart ones operating too, they just haven't been
Mohammed Hanzab, the Qatari chair of the ICSS, said the
two-year study was "a real milestone". "We call on governments to act, and act
now. We owe it to everyone across the globe, everyone who expects to watch and
enjoy a fair contest," he said.
Eaton defended the fact that his
not-for-profit organisation was funded by the Qatari government, under fire for
the controversial way it secured the 2022 World Cup and the treatment of
migrant workers building the infrastructure for it. He said the Qataris had
never threatened his independence and that every nation that had ambitions to
host major sporting events should be taking the issues of corrupt betting and
match fixing as seriously as it was.