Betting Business interactive caught up with media-friendly Chris Eaton, FIFA’s head of security, to get his views on the high profile issue of
corruption in football.
THE INTERNATIONAL NATURE OF FOOTBALL AND BETTING MEANS MATCH FIXING IS A GLOBAL ISSUE
Global solution needed to control bookmakers
o the majority of problems arise from unregu- lated betting markets?
No, although the unregu- lated betting market com- plicates combating the problem because of its incredible monetary mag- nitude, and the reality that as these unregulated book- makers and gamblers are operating outside of, and often against, national and international laws, most of them are non-complaining and non-co-operating victims for the frauds com- mitted against them by criminals manipulating sports outcomes.
Like all crime, if victims
don’t complain and don’t co-operate with regulators or police, the task of pre- venting future similar crimes, investigating past instances and identifying the criminals behind them, becomes extremely diffi- cult.
And when you realise that these crimes - the sports results fixing and the fraudulent gambling - are acutely international, with elements of each offence spread over many parts of the world, an already complex investigation plat- form becomes next to impossible without com- plaining and co-operating victims.
However, the majority of the problems stem from two simple realities: firstly, it is too easy to manage a gambling operation inter- nationally; and secondly, it
is too difficult to regulate and investigate internation- ally gambling operations. A similar dichotomy has faced international markets such as derivatives and commodities in the past and they present similar challenges for regulators and investigators. Simplistically, it is the existence of this massive bookmaking and gambling market operating instanta- neously and internation- ally, paying out as the gambling event unfolds in real time with digital trans- fers and cash, that is the essential root of the problem. And this market includes both the regulated and unregulated operators.
Should FIFA be lobbying for countries to regulate gam- bling where the black market is rife? It is not for FIFA to do this. FIFA has no property in any element of the gambling market. In fact, football is the disinterested victim, squeezed between the massive international gam- bling market on sports out- comes and the international criminal organisations that want to steal from that market.
However, the most important new entrant in this triangle of participants - bookmakers, sports and criminals - is international organised crime. It is the participation of interna- tional criminal organisa- tions in these frauds that must surely attract the interest of governments
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and their international and regional groups, such as the UN.
Given the amount of money involved and what organised crime can do with it, an international convention or some other form of collective interna- tional effort recognising the global scope of the threat and the consequently inter- national scope of the response, is essential. It should not be for sports bodies as the disinterested victims to lead in raising awareness, but for govern- ments to do so themselves. Fortunately, the European Union has taken a lead, and we can only hope to see them joined by others is developing practical inter- national solutions soon.
How does the Early Warning System work? Are book- makers actively involved or is it independent from the industry? The FIFA Early Warning System works in co-opera- tion with a number of oper- ators in the gambling industry. There are other monitoring organisations that also provide similar assessments of the market. Put at its most basic these systems monitor the move- ment of odds and handi- caps, especially once the sports event is in play. Skewed movements in odds and handicaps can clearly show if some gamblers are aware of a pre-determined result. The equivalent is an assessment of market movement and factors in
an insider trading investi- gation.
What is the legalised and licensed industry doing to help?
Some parts of the so-called legalised and licensed industry co-operate with our Early Warning System, and that is a help. As the industry taken in total - that is the regulated and unreg- ulated components - does not seem to be able to either police themselves to prevent criminals taking advantage or to protect the innocent victims such as sports, the only solution can be international regula- tion and enforcement.
How much of a concern is in-running betting? The UK Gambling Commission has never been overly worried. Do you agree?
Of course in-running betting is a concern. Gam- bling live, while a match is running, is the lifeblood of the sports results manipu- lator and fraudulent gambler. This is where the most money is taken. But it is a mistake to think that by banning this type of gam- bling that you will solve the concern. To the contrary all you do by banning it is to force it underground. Many millions of gamblers get great joy out of in- running betting. The answer is never to ban, but to responsibly regulate and control, and this will take a mature international col- lective effort of govern- ments to succeed.
CHRIS EATON: ‘FOOTBALL IS THE DISINTERESTED VICTIM’ IN MATCH FIXING
Straight-talking Chris Eaton appears to be of the mind that bookmakers are not only the cause of match fixing but also are aiding and abetting the criminals who arrange it. Those within the sport who collude with the fixers are notable absentees from his censure. It is surprising, though, that he hasn’t fully acknowledged the significant work of the regulated bookmakers, given that it is the increased professionalism of the industry, rather than the sport, that has led to the detection of the recent spate of match fixing. Unfortunately, the solution of international regulation to combat an international problem just isn’t practical. If Germany’s separate states can’t agree internally how to approach online betting, how are we going to get consistent global guidelines?
BETTING ON FACEBOOK Spread betting firm Spreadex said that Facebook’s IPO has proven to be a big market for customers, who have been betting on the percentage change of Facebook’s shares on its first day’s trading. Traditional spread betting offers the opportunity to buy or sell a company’s share price to try and profit from either a rise or fall in the value of the stock. But this Facebook market is based purely on the percentage change from the IPO price to the closing price on its first day on the open market. Spreadex spokesman Andy MacKenzie said: “This has been a popular market already with a heavy bias of buyers pushing our spread up from 50-55 per cent to 60-65 per cent.”
PROFITABLE YEAR Belfast-based
bookmaker Sean Graham has reported a return to profit in its annual accounts for 2011. In the year to March, the firm made a pre-tax profit of £737,000, on turnover of £5.8m. The business showed a substantial increase in turnover which had been £4.9m in 2010. In 2010 the firm lost almost £4m, mainly as the result of writing off loans made to two related companies. Sean Graham employs 134 people at its shops and on-course betting pitches as well as in online and phone betting.
JUSTBET GETS SOUTH AFRICAN LICENCE
Intralot South Africa has been awarded a fixed odds betting licence by the Western Cape Gambling and Racing Board. The Licence covers sports betting facilities in the area of Western Cape in South Africa and internet, telephone and mobile betting for players countrywide. Intralot South Africa will operate betting under the brand JUSTBET. Dr. Yannis Rondiris, managing director Africa Sub Sahara Region, stated: “Intralot is very pleased to take a step forward and launch fixed odds sports betting in South Africa, both land- based and interactive, following Intralot’s Group strategy that focuses on the convergence of retail with internet and mobile channels.”
ACTION IMAGES / MATTHEW CHILDS
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