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Sports bodies should be able to control types of betting, lobby group says

Betting operators should not be allowed to offer bets on sport without gaining the consent of the sports governing bodies responsible for the sport's organisation, a group representing some major sporting organisations has said. 07 Nov 2011

Nick Bitel, chief executive of the Sports Rights Owners Coalition (SROC), said that some types of betting should be prohibited altogether under new legislation. SROC lobbies for sporting rights on behalf of major sports bodies including the Football Association (FA), International Olympic Committee (IOC), the European Tour and England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB).

Bitel said he would like to see new laws passed at EU and UK level similar to those recently enacted in France. Those laws require betting operators to obtain permission from sporting bodies before bets can be placed on that sport.

"Sports betting should only take place with the consent of sports bodies," Bitel told Out-Law.com.

"Sports betting operators rely on information generated by the sport in terms of results and goodwill. There is no doubt that the betting industry is' piggy-backing' on the back of the rights of sports and all that is a product of the sport, so it is only right that sport should be able to control the events that can be bet on," Bitel said.

Bitel also said that the organisation was talking to EU and UK policy makers about new laws that would restrict some 'spot' betting altogether. Spot betting is the place of bets on a particular action within a sporting contest, such as the timing of a throw-in in football, or the hole at which a golfer will score a birdie. Last week three Pakistani cricketers were jailed after being found guilty of conspiring to cheat at gambling and conspiring to corruptly accept payments for the bowling of no-balls during a Test Match at Lords last year.

"We are talking to EU and UK law makers about regulation. As risks of unlawful gaming come to the fore we think that better regulation of betting will include this type of regulation of sport," Bitel said.

Trevor Watkins, sports law expert at Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, said that sports governing bodies and betting operators were caught up in a "vicious cycle of interdependence", where betting operators exploit people's interest in sport to drive revenues and sport benefits from the interest in betting in driving up the value of that sport's commercial rights.

Watkins said that sports bodies and betting operators could work together within the industry to educate and prevent situations arising where individuals can influence sporting outcomes.

"There is a difference between event outcomes that individuals can control and those in control of by an entire team," Watkins said.

"Sport will only ever be able to control that which it can regulate. In so far as the regulated market is concerned we are trying to prevent individuals from being able to influence the outcome of events. That is about sports educating and preventing those situations arising. It is not about banning bookmakers banning sport betting. Gaming companies as much as anyone will be wanting to preserve the unpredictability of the outcome of events as that is what encourages betting in the first place," he said.

The Gambling Commission, which is responsible for regulating betting in the UK under the Gambling Act, recently published a consultation (21-page / 343KB PDF) on betting integrity in which it said it was not necessary at this stage to "restrict the type of bets that the operators may accept". However, the Commission said that it would review whether betting customers should be provided with more information about "novelty bets" where "there may be individuals betting on them with inside information". It also said it could restrict some types of sporting bets in the future if it became concerned at the integrity of betting surrounding those events.

"Should we in the future establish a pattern of a higher number of betting integrity cases relating to different types of bets, we may consider it more appropriate to restrict the bets than dedicate significant resource to tackling the issue after the fact. This is however, not an area we are looking at currently," the Commission said in its consultation.