01/02/2012 : Minister warns that threats from the Far East and the Indian sub-continent are serious
With 2012 dawning as the year of the Olympics in Great Britain, the government has warned that it will be paying special attention to betting corruption, which detracts from the credibility and appeal of the games if contest-fixing is suspected by the public.
Britain's Olympics minister, Hugh Robertson, is determined to take every possible measure to preserve the integrity of the games, and that includes the formation of a special police unit, according to reports in several mainstream media publications this week.
The special unit will be keeping watch using modern technology to crack down on betting syndicates, particularly on the Indian sub-continent and in the Far East, and will be managed by the Metropolitan Police working with the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) and Interpol to track suspicious gambling activity abroad.
Robertson says the unlawful bribing of athletes is a credible threat to the games, and that across the globe attempts to fix contests now constitute a greater danger than doping.
"You cannot underestimate the threat this poses because the moment that spectators start to feel that what they are seeing in front of them is not a true contest, that is when spectators stop turning up and the whole thing falls to pieces," Robertson told the Sunday Times.
He added that he believes game-fixing now posed the biggest threat to the reputation of the Olympic Games. "At some stage over the next two or three years, we will have some other sort of betting scandal in some sport. I just hope it is not at the Olympics," the Minister said.
Huge amounts of money are expected to be bet over the Olympics – online betting exchange Betfair says that up to GBP 300 million could be wagered in Britain alone.
Robertson said that in the West regulation was tight and there were bodies well versed in identifying and tracking suspect betting patterns. However, the same could not be said for the Far East and the Indian sub-continent.
"If you look at the most recent high-profile incident – the Pakistani cricketers at Lord's – the issue is not of betting syndicates in this part of the world. It is in illegal betting syndicates on the Indian subcontinent and elsewhere, where huge sums of money change hands."
The minister drew particular attention to spot-betting as the major danger. In spot-betting, syndicates wager tens of thousands of pounds sterling on individual incidents within matches.