Combating serious crime and corruption in sport

28 November 2011

This paper details the actual and potential challenges, and impact, of gambling and corruption practices on sports in Australia.

Sports events attract large audiences and the attention of gamblers. Betting on sport events is an historical past-time, the most well-known being horse-racing and, in Australia, epitomized by the Melbourne Cup. Betting now extends to all forms of sport, and not just on match outcomes. ‘Exotic’ bets have gained in popularity, with wagers on whether or not particular events will occur during the game. Simultaneously, changes have occurred to where punters lay their bets, with the growth of offshore and online gambling platforms. Significant amounts of money are involved, and the plethora of methods for placing bets unsurprisingly also attracts the attention of opportunistic and organized criminal activity. Correlated to these developments is an emerging concern – by sports fans, sporting bodies, gambling operators, regulatory and law enforcement agencies – that sporting matches are no longer games of skill, but instead are often covertly engineered or ‘fixed.’

This Briefing Paper details the actual and potential challenges, and impact, of gambling and corruption practices on sports in Australia. The paper draws on case studies from Australia and overseas, where the role of players, referees and agents, illustrate the pervasive attraction and negative impact of matchfixing. Vulnerabilities in organized sporting events are identified in this paper, ranging from individuals directly involved in a sport, to regulatory practices, and - perhaps the most challenging issue - the sophistication and complexity of betting avenues for gamblers, particularly the emergence of offshore platforms which offer lucrative avenues for the laundering of money and perpetration of fraud. This Briefing Paper reviews current strategies in Australia and overseas to regulate and promote integrity in sport - by sporting bodies, gambling operators and governments - and highlights important considerations that should be taken into account in these approaches. The Briefing Paper concludes by noting the importance of academic research in enhanced responses to gambling-led corruption, and the promotion of integrity in sport.

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