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Olympic organisers, bookmakers to combat illegal betting

MYT 4:55:04 PM

LONDON (Reuters) - Betting industry representatives will meet organisers of the London Olympics on Tuesday to discuss ways to prevent illegal gambling which some officials regard as a bigger threat to the integrity of the Games than doping.

The Olympic Rings, the symbol of the Olympic Games, are illuminated at St Pancras international station in London March 3, 2011. REUTERS/Eddie Keogh

Reuters reported earlier this month that a meeting would be held in London to discuss a range of measures to tackle the threat including a drop-in zone to offer advice to athletes in the Olympic Village during the Games.

The seminar will be attended by major sports betting firms such as William Hill, Betfair and Ladbrokes, the UK's Gambling Commission, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

Kendrah Potts, the lead lawyer on integrity for the London Games, is also expected to attend.

The threat posed by sports betting corruption was highlighted last year when three Pakistani cricketers were jailed after being found guilty of taking bribes to fix parts of a test match against England in London in 2010.

"When sport is corrupted, and betting used to profit from that corruption, it impacts sport and the legitimate betting industry alike. Punters always want to know they're getting a fair bet on their chosen sport," Ladbrokes Business Director Mike O'Kane, who will chair the meeting, said on Monday.

UNREGULATED MARKETS

Despite the efforts of the gambling industry to combat fixing, everyone involved in sport recognises that the main threat lies in unregulated betting in Asia.

"Although the real risk lies within illegal betting markets, the regulated industry still has a role to play in assisting the authorities to understand and combat this problem," said O'Kane, who is also head bookmaker at the European Sports Security Association.

O'Kane said regulated betting companies have the systems in place to detect and report suspicious betting activity.

British company Betfair, which operates the world's largest betting exchange, has agreed to share information with the IOC during the Games.

IOC President Jacques Rogge said last year that illegal betting is as big a threat to the integrity of sports as doping.

Betting is prohibited for athletes taking part in the Games under a code of ethics running for a month from the opening of the Olympic Village on July 16. The ban applies to other delegation members including coaches, officials and referees.

During the London Games, a dedicated area called ‘the IOC and me' will be set up in the Olympic village to raise awareness of a number of issues including illegal and irregular betting in sport, the IOC said.

A booth called ‘Betting risk and me' will allow athletes to learn more about the risks for themselves and for the integrity of sport through quizzes, information kits and videos.

However, British bookmakers have noted that the Games are a relatively small market - saying that wagers over the course of the Olympics will probably be on par with an average weekend of English Premier League soccer.

(Editing by Alison Wildey)

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