An exclusive interview by Kevin Carpenter, Executive Contributor for LawinSport
In the build-up to the London 2012 Olympic Games the International Olympic Committee ('IOC'), representatives of the UK Government and others have stated that sports betting integrity and match-fixing has overtaken doping as the principal threat to the Games.
This is the second part of an interview I did with Julia Mackisack, Director of Corporate Affairs at the Gambling Commission ('GC'), who is responsible for managing the communications of the GC (both internally and externally) and works closely with the Chairman and Chief Executive in managing relationships with stakeholders.
KC: In terms of the proposed additions to Schedule 6 of the Gambling Act1, I did a review of the initial consultation2 and one of the things I said was, because a lot of the licensed sports gambling operators already have agreements with the European Sports Security Association or the Remote Gambling Association for example, I questioned whether it was necessary or proportionate cost-wise to add them to the Act as well?
JM: The principal benefit is time. We can usually get hold of information over a longer period of time, but we aim to be speedy and efficient and these information sharing arrangements allow us to quickly share information with the relevant people.
KC: If you do receive suspicions and you pass them on to the Sports Governing Bodies ('SGBs'), does it ever get passed directly over to the police or to the SGBs first?
JM: Issues that are sport related around the Olympics will go directly to the IOC to deal with. If there is some suspected criminal activity, it would be passed to the police.
KC: In terms of the Sports Betting Intelligence Unit ('SBIU') what sort of people are working in that? I presume a mix of ex-police officers, private investigators, betting specialists?
JM: Yes you are right, all three. For example, the Director of Regulation here at the GC, Nick Tofiluk, is an ex-police officer.
KC: In terms of the general public, who are not covered by the legislative framework or other agreements, can they report suspicions to the GC?
KC: I guess the million dollar question, and one that I often get asked and I don't have the definitive answer to, is what do we do about non-licensed entities that are in unregulated markets? What work has the GC done already in working with regulators in China, India or wherever it may be?
JM: It is an issue and we don't have all the answers. The GC covers Great Britain. What we do is talk a lot to other regulators and share our experience with them. We will also provide intelligence to other countries when asked.
KC: One thing I spoke about at the recent Sport & EU conference in Lausanne was that I don't think there is enough importance placed on the political lobbying that Europe can do to pressure unregulated jurisdictions to start taking match-fixing seriously and putting legislation in place to deal with it. It does not seem to be very high on the political agenda, which is regrettable.
JM: That is one to talk to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport ('DCMS') about. Our role is to regulate according to British law. Of course each European country has a different way of regulating gambling which means that it is not always easy to obtain a consensus of opinion.
KC: I guess it creates a lot of work for private practitioners like me really! Which, in a way is good, but it does not help my wider feeling about anti-corruption. It is difficult and I think it is also getting more so with the economic climate fuelling a more introverted approach to gambling, like in Spain where they have just opened up the market. To me a combination of financial pressures, tax revenue and job creation seems to be behind opening up gambling markets. Even though the UK has one of the most liberal markets in the world, it is well-regulated and our model seems to work really well.
JM: This is what the Government decided with the Gambling Act 2005 and I'm glad that you think it is working well.
KC: Well the evidence is that there have not been too many large scale cases that I have come across. On that, what was the GC's knowledge or involvement on the Pakistan cricketers' case if any at all?
JM: We provided some background intelligence.
KC: OK. One final question: is there anything the GC would like to see improved or is there any extra powers that you would like to make regulating gambling, particularly sports betting, easier?
JM: The recent Remote Gambling review by DCMS3 outlines that anybody offering gambling services to British consumers would need a licence from us, whereas at the moment, they only have to have a licence from us if they are physically based in Great Britain. We are expecting legislation to make the necessary changes before too long. The changes mean that all gambling operators targeting British consumers will be licensed by the GC in the future and we welcome that.
KC: OK. Would that involve some worldwide corporation over the jurisdiction to enforce that legislation I presume?
JM: We would obviously not want to duplicate what other regulators are doing, so we will be seeking to work and co-operate with other regulators to ensure that there is minimum duplication of efforts.
The GC and the UK Government have to be applauded for their efforts as regards match-fixing and sports betting regulation, and as a Brit I am proud to say that I think the sports gambling regulation in this little island of ours is a world leader. I hope the Remote Gambling review brings the additional powers to assist the GC to regulate those entities that operate outside the jurisdiction but offer sports betting services to UK consumers.
Of most surprise to me from this interview was that the potential risk to the London games from sports betting integrity is low. However the potential impact of a scandal is high, which reflects an internal tension I have about the Olympics, because for Governments in currently unlicensed jurisdictions to take action against match-fixing my view is that a scandal at the Games might be the global impact that is needed. Yet I would much rather a concerted political effort be the driver of change instead. This may come from the new international convention on match-fixing that is currently being negotiated by the Council of Europe.
As a sports fan first and foremost I hope the London Olympic Games are free from a betting integrity scandal and the Olympic motto of 'faster, higher, stronger’ prevails.
1 The persons and bodies listed on the Schedule are split into three parts; with Part 3 listing a number of Sports Governing Bodies (‘SGBs’). Betting operators licensed by the Commission are under an obligation to provide any information that they suspect “relate[s] to a breach of a rule on betting applied by that sports governing body" to their relevant SGB. However, if the relevant SGB is not named in Part 3 of the Schedule then this legal obligation does not apply.