Would a system structured similarly to dope control work in global online sports betting?
The discussions on internet sports betting at the SportelMonaco conference in Monte Carlo proved interesting this week, with urgent calls for control of international sports betting to be harmonised, perhaps under the supervision of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
Citing the “internet gambling explosion”, Denis Masseglia, president of the French national Olympic committee, stressed the need for such an initiative during a round table debate at the conference, which is an international sports convention for television and new media.
“All sides mostly agree on the need for international harmonisation [of sports betting controls] because the internet knows no borders; if the rules are different in one country compared with another, then sport’s credibility will be affected,” Masseglia said.
He went on to suggest that the lessons learned in creating the World Anti-Doping Agency and turning it into an effective force of international control could be valuable.
Masseglia said such a project could not expect overnight success. “It will take time to analyse the legal frameworks in different countries. It’s extremely important to harmonise the different types of sports betting. If you can do one type of betting in one country and not in another there is a contradiction: this is why the anti-doping experience can be of benefit in the sports betting field.”
Jean-Francois Vilotte, president of the French regulatory authority for online gaming ARJEL, reviewed the significance of new French legalization aimed at freeing up the market while simultaneously protecting the credibility of sport and preventing money laundering, addiction, and other undesirable elements.
The chief executive of the formerly monopolistic Francaise des Jeux, Christophe Blanchard-Dignac, defended the sports betting industry against suggestions that it should shoulder much of the cost of regulation, stressing that while the betting industry used sport it did not exist to serve sport.
“The regulatory authorities, police, Interpol and sport itself must all play their role as well as the betting operators,” he said. “The operators don’t want sport brought into question because that would kill the objectives of their activity. The right to bet depends on maintenance of an event’s credibility.”
The head of the International Tennis Federation, Francesco Ricci Bitti supported the call for harmonisation, saying: “With the internet you can bet on everything: for example, the first time in a tennis match when a girl starts grunting. We want to limit this and give the sports organiser – the property owner, if you like – a right to say: ‘We can accept this form of betting but not that form of betting because it will be more open to fraud.’
“Public interest needs laws which carry criminal sanctions – and we need harmonisation in Europe because professional sport is an international activity…these are messages from the IOC, maybe a bit late but very clear.”
Bitti was in agreement that the success of the anti-doping initiatives provided a good foundation for the development of a betting harmonisation model, but he opined that the betting companies, rather than the IOC, should provide the funding as a commitment to the integrity of sport.