Academic journal article The International Sports Law Journal

Gambling-Led Corruption in International Sport: An Australian Perspective

Academic journal article The International Sports Law Journal

Gambling-Led Corruption in International Sport: An Australian Perspective

Article excerpt


In 2011, the President of the International Olympic Committee, Jacque Rogge, identified gambling-related corruption as the biggest single threat to the integrity of international sport. Recent events have highlighted that Australian sport is not immune from such corruptive behaviour. Moreover, the threat posed is not confined to sport. By utilising online gambling platforms, recognised international crime syndicates have the capacity to launder money and to engage in assorted secondary criminality of a financial nature including identity theft, economic conspiracy and fraud.

Against this backdrop, the Australian Research Council's (ARC) Centre of Excellence in Policing and Security (CEPS) co-ordinated and hosted a one-day workshop in July 2011 with partner organisations, sports bodies and researchers to discuss the following: the vulnerability of sport to betting-led corruption; risk management and preventative measures currently in place in Australian and international sport; and future resilience enhancement mechanisms that could be applied through the sports industry. Further, an objective of the workshop was to identify and agree areas where academic research could strengthen the understanding and expertise on sport's vulnerability to gambling-led corruption and how that could inform a coordinated and more effective response by sport and relevant government agencies in an effort both to underpin the integrity of sports events and undermine the illicit, online behaviour of criminal syndicates. What follows is a thematic (and updated) review of the workshop's deliberations including the author's keynote address. (1)

Historical overview and context

Two brief historical and contextual points need to be highlighted on the topic of gambling-led corruption in sport.

First, cheating in, and the fixing of, sports events have a history that is almost as old as organised sport. Modern sports organisations have developed quite sophisticated, if largely private, self-regulatory mechanisms in identifying cheats and fixers. In particular, the manner in which international sport, as directed by the World Anti-Doping Agency, monitors, internally prosecutes and sanctions those who take prohibited performance enhancing drugs is instructive as to how sport might deal with the integrity threat posed by illicit, online gambling and match-fixing. In addition, the relationship between gambling and sport is long in history. The manner in which the oldest organised professional sport, the horse racing industry, monitors, internally prosecutes and sanctions those associated with gambling-inspired corruption is again highly instructive as to how sport deals with betting-led conspiracies. (2)

This institutional history notwithstanding, it is the combination of cheating and betting in sport, based on inside information supplied by officials or players and placed upon online and offshore gambling platforms, that poses a significant integrity threat to modern sport and also reveals certain regulatory vulnerabilities within international sport to such activities such that certain sports betting platforms are being used as a conduit for transnational financial crimes, cross border money laundering and associated economic criminality or fraud.

The second contextual point lies in an explanation of the meaning of an "integrity" threat. Borrowing from the Australian Sport Commission's definition of the "Essence of Australian Sport, integrity in competitive sport has four essential elements: fairness; respect; responsibility; and safety. (3) Put simply, integrity in this regard concerns a respect for the core values of fair and open competition in the game or event in question. In the context of modern professional sport, however, integrity has, for sports governing bodies, a meaning that extends beyond the playing field and is related to modern sport's business model and branding. …

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