At their General Assembly in Helsinki on Wednesday 8 June, Europe's state lotteries committed to further concrete action to help sport protect its competitions from manipulations associated with sport betting, an issue which is currently at the top of the agenda of all European and international sport governing bodies and public institutions including SportAccord, the Olympic movement, the football federations, the Council of Europe and the major EU institutions.
“We have been the prime partners of sport for decades, providing sustainable funding of more than two billion EUR to European sport each year. And we are more than ever committed to help defending the values of sport wherever we can, including by financial contributions,” said Friedrich Stickler, president of the European Lotteries.
The European Lotteries, Europe's by far largest and geographically most representative association of gambling operators with members from more than 40 European countries, includes five of the six biggest land-based sport betting operators in Europe. EL members offer sport betting in 23 out of 27 EU Member States and strictly confine their activities to the national jurisdictions in which they are licensed.
EL members Wednesday passed a Resolution on Public Order and the Integrity of Sport, in which EL commits to a large number of concrete actions in this area (see paragraphs 8 and 9 in particular) such as:
- Expand the EL Monitoring System (ELMS) to a global monitoring system for sport bets which includes members of the World Lottery Association (WLA) from Asia and other parts of the world
- Promote the idea of establishing an international sport integrity agency o Promote the idea of a mandatory "solidarity and integrity payment‟ from all sport betting operators to financially support measures needed to fight betting manipulations of sports events
- Promote strict legislation against money laundering through sport betting, sport fraud and conflicts of interests between betting operators and sport clubs, teams or active athletes, as it already exists in some European countries
- Urge regulators to continue to restrict/prohibit certain types of bets that pose a high risk to the integrity of sport competitions and set limits to pay-out ratios
EL has been pursuing and now decided to intensify its efforts along three main lines of action: 1. legislation; 2. best practices; 3. ways and means.
1. LegislationWhile several European countries already adopted strict legislation against money laundering through sport betting, sport fraud (classifying it as a specific and criminal offence) and conflicts of interests between betting operators and sport clubs, teams or active athletes, many European countries have not. The EU's Third Anti-Money Laundering Directive only covers land- based casinos (and their online business), not sport betting.
2. Best practicesIn contrast to commercial sport betting operators, EL agrees with the sport movement that certain types of bets (e.g. live betting; exchange betting; bets on lower- or junior league matches) pose a higher risk for manipulations of sport events. Restrictions or even a ban on these risky bets must be upheld, or, if not implemented yet, seriously discussed. The same is true for very high pay-out ratios (average winnings by the bettor), which make sport betting more attractive for money laundering purposes than games with lower payout-ratios.
3. Ways and meansBuilding on historic ties with the sport movement: Many EL members have been set up by national governments to generate funding for sport infrastructure and activities, hence the long-term and close relationship to sport. EL members contribute more than 2 billion EUR to the funding of sport in the EU each year – long-term, sustainable funding on which sport could and can rely on, even in times of economic crisis.
Driving the debate on sport integrity: EL is the only association of betting operators to agree with the sport movement that betting manipulations are as serious a threat to the integrity of sport as doping. EL was the first European association to adopt a strict code of conduct on sport betting in 2007 which also addresses the issue of potential conflicts of interests between betting operators and clubs, teams or athletes. EL and WLA were also the first to call for the strong involvement of Interpol and for a World Sport Integrity Agency (see below).
Alerting sport governing bodies to suspicious betting on their events: As the first European association of sport betting operators. EL has established in early 2005 a pan-European Monitoring System (ELMS; ex-Match Info) and has been sharing information about suspicious bets on sports events with UEFA and other sport governing bodies. From 2009, in less than two years, ELMS reported 64 suspicious cases.
Working on global solutions to global problems:
1. As many recent incidents have shown, match-fixing and other betting- related manipulations of sport competitions often have a global dimension. Therefore EL is working with its sister organisation, the World Lottery Association (WLA), to expand ELMS to a global sport betting monitoring system. WLA members include gambling operators from Asia and other parts of the world.
2. EL and WLA were also the first to call for the strong involvement of Interpol (considering the involvement of global organised crime in illegal betting) and for a World Sport Integrity Agency (modeled on WADA, the doping agency), a proposal that continues to be seriously discussed by international sport federations, governments and European institutions.
Education programmes for athletes and other sport officials: Earlier this year, EL and WLA launched with SportAccord, which unites 90 international sports federations, a sport betting integrity education programme for athletes and sport officials.
Raising awareness among the media: Considering the privileged position sport journalists have and the important role they can play in identifying irregularities of a sport events, EL and WLA have entered into a close and fruitful cooperation with the International Sports Press Association, AIPS.
Commitment must be followed by concrete actions: Sport betting cannot be organised in a sustainable manner if the values of sport are damaged, i.e. if sport competitions are not perceived to be "clean‟.
In contrast to commercial sport betting operators, EL believes that it is only fair that sport betting operators contribute, also financially, to the funding of measures needed to fight betting manipulations of sports events. The appropriate funding mechanism, from which not only a few professional sports but also grassroots sport should benefit, must be discussed. EL suggests that all sport betting operators should make a regular and mandatory "solidarity and integrity payment‟ to sports governing bodies to financially support the said measures.
Dialogue with the sport movement and regulators: As a consequence of its expertise, its close ties with national governments and its strong commitment to helping preserve the integrity of sport, representatives of the European and global associations of state lotteries, EL and WLA, have participated in (and has been invited to) all recent (upcoming) high-level and expert meetings on this topic, as organised by the International Olympic Committee (1 March 2011; coming up: 15 June 2011), the Council of Europe (3 May 2011; 7 June 2011), the European Commission (10 May 2011) and the Council of the European Union (20 May 2011; coming up: 27 June and 13/14 October 2011).
Recognised as an important EU stakeholder in the area of sport, EL has also been invited to all EU Sport Forums, as co-organised by the EU Presidency and the European Commission since 2008.