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UK Gambling Commission lacks resources to inspect betting crimes

In an inquiry by the UK’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), the UK Gambling Commission was accused of lacking adequate resources, drive, and expertise in handling criminal investigations related to sports betting.

The DCMS committee requested the input of peak bodies last December in an inquiry into gambling regulations. The response assemblage is related to the UK government’s white paper, which will likely not be published until May.

Some bodies that submitted comments to the DCMS-led inquiry include the Sports Betting Group (SBG) and the Sports and Recreation Alliance (SRA). The British Horseracing Authority (BHA), Wales Cricket Board and Rugby Football Union, and Football Association, England, are all members of said bodies.

The SRA/SBG asserted, in its submission to the inquiry, that although sports regulatory bodies could place bans on participants, they could not probe or penalize defaulters outside the sport. They also emphasized the importance of the Gambling Commission having the “necessary strategic focus, powers, resources, determination and expertise to effectively investigate and prosecute cases of sports betting corruption”.

According to the SRA/SBG’s reports, the Gambling Commission was yet to utilize its powers to investigate sports betting corruption cases and sanction offenders despite being authorized by the 2005 Gambling Act. They claimed that this was likely due to an issue of inadequate “resources, expertise and appetite” to tackle these criminal cases.

In cases where evidence of significant criminality was discovered, the Gambling Commission, according to the report, would instead enlist the aid of other law enforcement agencies. Per the SRA/SBG, this was a problematic approach because of the finite knowledge and resources available to other bodies when probing sports-related criminal cases.

“This approach is particularly problematic given the limited expertise and resources available to other law enforcement agencies to investigate sports corruption cases and the wider difficulties sports bodies face in tackling external corrupters over whom they have no jurisdiction,” the submission read.

To remedy this, the submission requested a Sports Betting Integrity Unit within the UKGC. This will allow the regulator to investigate suspected sports betting corruption cases and execute penalties with the same authority as law enforcement agencies. The new section would be funded by the proceeds of a tax increase on the UK gaming operators.

A separate submission by the BHA supported the SRA/SBG’s suggestions of providing the UKGC with more power to follow up on sports betting corruption cases.

Despite the suggestions, the UKGC already has a division to handle sports betting-related corruption known as the Sports Betting Intelligence Unit (SBIU). A spokesperson for the regulator asserted that the SBIU worked hard on these cases and, on occasion, handed them over to the police.

The BHA also stated the importance of the government’s gambling review enabling the Gambling Commission to curb the rapid expansion of the gambling black market.

The BHA mentioned the use of drones to broadcast live feeds from racecourses for in-running betting. They pointed out that other than concerns about the safety of individuals and horses, sharing the pictures would aid the rapid increase of the already threatening black market sports betting entities.

“All of this is why it is extremely important for the UK government to, where possible, future proof regulations around gambling legislation to allow it to keep up with technological advances in an ever-increasing digital age, and help tackle the risks of the black market,” they added.

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