The online gambling industry has come out with guns firing following uninformed claims in the British press this week that UK sports face an increased threat of match-fixing as a result of the relocation offshore of major Internet gambling groups like William Hill Online and Ladbrokes.
The CEO of William Hill, Ralph Topping has already debunked the claims (see earlier InfoPowa report) and Clive Hawkswood, chief exec of the Remote Gaming Association has joined the fray, challenging the allegations and describing them as 'bizarre.'
Hawkswood, who heads a trade association to which most major British online gambling groups belong, says that the moves offshore by Ladbrokes and William Hill Online were purely commercial decisions motivated by the need to better compete in a highly competitive global industry.
Online betting is a global operation facing global challenges and is not (nor ever was) solely focused on British sport, he remarked.
Following on from this, it is a fallacy to suggest that betting operators combat integrity threats because they are compelled to, Hawkswood said, pointing out that operators do so because it is crucial to the safe running of their business.
And, Hawkswood commented, the [UK] Gambling Commission does not have a monopoly on good regulation.
The RGA chief stressed that reputable betting operators have been making a significant investment in integrity mechanisms to assist sports for some considerable time, and will continue to do so.
"Operators have a significant interest in this area; what harms sport likewise harms operators, both in financial and reputation terms. There is, therefore, a mutual interest, and the fact that operators are based abroad makes no difference in that respect," he said.
Hawkswood ended with a stiff condemnation of "those who wildly, and inaccurately, speculate that betting presents as great a risk to sport as doping", saying that the comments in the press have no foundation and do nothing to focus the discussion about what is an essentially commercially forced move.
William Hill's CEO had earlier explained that the relocation of the company's online activities to Gibraltar had been largely motivated by the burden on its competitiveness which the UK gambling tax of 15 percent and horseracing levies of a further 10 percent constituted.
Hawkswood revealed that the RGA is presently conducting a consultation on sports betting, and has invited a number of national and international sporting bodies to respond.
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