For Racing’s Integrity, and Engaging Government Agencies: the Anti-Illegal Betting Taskforce


Mr. Douglas Robinson, Deputy Chairman, Asian Racing Federation (ARF) Anti-Illegal Betting Taskforce, and Senior Due Diligence and Research Manager, the Hong Kong Jockey Club, warned of the “war” racing faces against illegal betting as he moderated Plenary Session 5 on Thursday afternoon at the 38th Asian Racing Conference (ARC) in Cape Town, South Africa.

The session had the title, For Racing’s Integrity, and Engaging Government Agencies: the Anti-Illegal Betting Taskforce, and immediately followed on from and complemented the morning’s Protecting Racing's Integrity session.

“As Stephen Wise said during the opening session,” Mr Robinson observed, “we are all at war with other sports for customers – I would add that, not only do we all face a war against other sports – we also face a war against a rampant illegal betting market which is also doing its utmost to channel customers away from racing’s product offerings.”

Mr. Robinson further advised delegates of the enormity of the task at hand as the session focused on the status of anti-illegal betting, highlighted the work that the ARF Anti-Illegal Betting Taskforce has done to combat illegal betting, detailed its engagement with government agencies and outlined the impending release of a handbook on ‘Good Practices in Addressing Illegal Betting - A Handbook for Racing and Sports Organisations to Uphold Integrity’.

“Combating the issue of illegal betting however is not a simple job given its dynamic, transnational and online nature. The scale of illegal betting is now so huge, and its operations spread across so many different countries, that horse racing and sports organisations alone cannot effectively combat the threat from illegal betting, nor can law enforcement agencies take enough effective action against them by themselves.

“So racing and sports must now engage with multiple stakeholders in order to effectively tackle the issue – a point recently reflected in a yet-to-be-published United Nations resolution under the umbrella of the UN Convention against Corruption,” Mr. Robinson said.

Mr. Robinson was joined by fellow Taskforce members Mr. Tom Chignell, Mr. Brant Dunshea and Mr. Tim Robinson as details of how illegal betting continues to corrupt horse racing, how this damage can be mitigated and why stakeholder engagement – specifically engagement with government stakeholders – is key when tackling the issue of illegal betting.

The Federation’s Anti-illegal betting Taskforce was set up in 2016 and now comprises 14 members from a diverse range of geographies as well as jurisdictions and has produced a white paper – based on extensive research into illegal betting markets across six horse racing jurisdictions – Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, South Korea and Singapore.

“This research looked to highlight the scale and severity of illegal betting, as well as the associated problems caused by illegal betting across Asia,” Mr. Douglas Robinson explained.

The conference was told that illegal betting markets were large and expanding faster than regulated betting markets; that their existence causes other associated criminal activity (including money laundering and loan sharking) and that they have a large negative social impact on their customers.

“At the top of the stakeholders list is government, primarily because they control and direct policy against illegal betting at a strategic level, and also direct action against illegal betting from a tactical standpoint,” Mr. Douglas Robinson said.

While he conceded that it was difficult to have government understand and support measures for racing to tackle illegal betting there were several significant points which had to be reinforced.
1. Potential loss of tax and/or other revenue from existence of illegal betting operations.
2. The negative impact of illegal betting – versus regulated betting which typically has responsible gambling policies in place – has on society.
3. The impact that illegal betting has on inducing society’s youth to bet, both underage and illegally.
4. The associated criminal activity that illegal betting causes within society, chief among these being money laundering.
5. The infiltration of this criminal activity by organised criminal groups, which induces other criminal activity to occur.
Mr. Chignell, ARF Anti-Illegal Betting Taskforce Member and Executive Manager, Racing Integrity & Betting Analysis, the Hong Kong Jockey Club, reported that Citibet and other illegal betting operators are a significant threat to horse racing integrity.

“The greatest betting integrity threat to racing is jockeys or trainers stopping horses from winning and profiting by betting on those horses to lose. Citibet and other illegal operators do not report suspicious betting or breaches of the rules of racing. Licensed betting operators in well-regulated jurisdictions do share valuable information with racing authorities and have built good relationships. We are also now seeing emerging threats from illegal crypto currency-based betting operators with racing as their primary product.”

Mr. Chignell identified that in-house integrity units have three key areas - bet monitoring of legal and illegal markets, intelligence functions and investigation capabilities – and these are vital to combatting the threat.

Mr. Dunshea, ARF Anti-Illegal Betting Taskforce Member and Chief Regulatory Officer at the British Horseracing Authority, looked at the issue from a European and global perspective. “In Europe the threat Asian illegal betting markets can cause for horse racing is not well understood – there is a limited awareness and/or a ‘head in sand’ mentality, possibly due to the culturally different environment in which European horse racing operates.

“Education and or a better understanding is required in order to overcome this threat. One method of doing this is ‘cross-pollinating’ other racing integrity bodies in order to gain a critical mass of racing integrity intelligence knowledge, as well as standardising methodologies and approaches to combating racing integrity threats,“ Dunshea said.

Mr. Tim Robinson, ARF Anti-Illegal Betting Taskforce Member and General Manager, Intelligence and Integrity Services, Racing Victoria, highlighted the importance of a collaborative approach.

“Government engagement (and indeed wider stakeholder engagement) is key at multiple levels in order to mitigate this threat to racing. What we see in Australia is that such engagement has been engendered by the government including the setting up of dedicated Sports Integrity Units (SIUs) at state, as well as at federal level, which are properly resourced and technically capable to monitor for, and identify betting-related integrity lapses.

“The steps include the creation of a specific commission to ensure sports integrity in Australia and the founding of a federal level Sports-betting Integrity Unit to examine issues relating to sports betting integrity breaches. Establishing effective cooperation between racing and regulated betting operators and all levels (state, national and international) law enforcement agencies in order to take action when a breach has occurred; the set-up of the Black Economy Task Force and the Australian Media and Communications Authority (ACMA) which was recently mandated to increase its activity against online illegal betting operators.”

However, Mr. Tim Robinson said challenges remain. “There are many agencies in Australia in place to combat sport corruption, but getting them to engage in two-way dialogue and talk to all others (as well as take appropriate action when necessary/required) is the challenge that we all face- as well as better educating people to understand the size and scale of the illegal betting problem.”

The consensus clearly, among the Taskforce members, was that a multi-agency approach is requited to address the serious problem of illegal betting.

For more information on the 38th ARC, visit www.arcsa2020.com