True to its undertaking that it would release the results of a major independent survey on integrity in gambling during the ICEi show this week, the UK-based Remote Gaming Association did just that....but its findings are unlikely to please those bodies wishing to profit from contributions for enhanced integrity in sports.
The RGA counts most of the UK's major online gambling operators among its members, and its findings deserve attention and respect.
The report provides a detailed analysis on the impact of betting on sport, especially from a commercial and integrity perspective.
Clive Hawkswood, RGA chief executive, said: “We welcome the production of this independent report which aims to cut through the rhetoric surrounding these issues in order that proper evidence-based policies can be developed to address integrity in sport.
"The licensed gambling industry shares a common aim with sports to safeguard the integrity of sporting events. However, there is no evidence that betting-related corruption is on the increase and it is very clear that there are far greater threats from other sources of non betting related corruption, such as doping.
"Unfortunately, many in the sporting world are seeking to use the issue of integrity to persuade legislators to introduce statutory mechanisms to increase the levels of funding from the betting industry. This is often dressed up as the concept of a ‘fair return’ but, as a report by Europe Economics in 2009 highlighted, the gambling industry already provides Euro 3.4 billion per annum to EU sport, with Euro 2.1 billion (62 percent contributed by private companies.
"In fact is it something of an irony that this figure would be even higher if so many EU Member States had not decided to ban advertising and sponsorship by private sector gambling operators."
The report notes the significant economic benefits provided to professional sport through State aids, along with preferential taxation measures that are not
afforded to other industries.
To illustrate this, the report states that in 2008 FIFA, UEFA and the IOC had combined revenues that amounted to over Euro 4 billion.
Hawkswood added: "We completely understand why governments wish to support and promote sports and we are not seeking to challenge that. However, given how wealthy many of the major professional sports are, and remembering that licensed gambling remains one of the highest taxed industries, it is galling to many in the betting industry that sports believe that the betting industry should make an even larger contribution than it already does.
"It is disappointing when so many people at State and EU level appear willing to support them without even looking at the facts or hearing our side of the argument."
The report concludes that such annual income streams and the Euro 3.4 billion contributed annually by licensed gambling operators wholly undermine the argument that a new EU-wide statutory mechanism is required to provide sports greater control over the betting product and to enforce additional payments from gambling operators.
Any such proposals do not appear to be valid, necessary or proportionate.
"There is ample income within the sporting sector; whether it is being distributed in a fair and appropriate manner, and whether a sufficient amount of those resources are being applied to deal with integrity issues is for each sport to determine," the report concludes.
The research project was managed by Jason Foley-Train (on secondment from the UK Government’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport) for the RGA.
Foley-Train has a decade of experience of sporting and betting issues, notably working on the policy for the UK Gambling Act 2005 and the UK’s response to the European Commission’s White Paper on Sport (2007).
The final report, entitled ‘Sports Betting: Legal, Commercial and Integrity Issues’, was completed following a consultation conducted by Foley-Train that approached 239 stakeholders, including the major international and national sporting bodies, EU Member States and non-RGA gambling operators that offering betting on sporting events.
The RGA is now considering how best to take forward the report’s recommendations and to engage with stakeholders who wish to participate in a partnership approach with licensed gambling operators. The organisation hopes to make further announcements in the near future. The full report is available at www.rga.eu.com.
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