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Report Links Sports Gambling to Criminal Activity

England played against Poland during their 2014 World Cup qualifying soccer match at Wembley Stadium in London October 15, 2013.

England played against Poland during their 2014 World Cup qualifying soccer match at Wembley Stadium in London October 15, 2013.

Gambling on sporting events is a big business worldwide. A new report examines its size and effects. In sports gambling, you can win or lose a lot of money because of the result of a game. The report notes how criminals are active in gambling operations. It says they use sports to cover up the movement of money and other illegal activities.

On June 12th, the 2014 World Cup opens in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Fans of football, known in the U.S. as soccer, have been waiting four years for the huge event. National teams will battle in an effort to reach the final until July 13th, when two teams play for the championship.

Next month, fans will not just be cheering for their favorite teams. Many will be predicting the results and risking money, placing bets, on the winner. And not only on World Cup matches. There is a huge sports betting industry, with people placing bets on American football, tennis and motor sports – competitions of every kind.

A new report examines this industry. It was a joint project of the Sorbonne in Paris and International Center for Sport Security in Qatar. Chris Eaton is the center’s Director of Sport Integrity. He spoke to VOA on Skype.

“Taking the illegal (gambling market, the under-regulated grey market, and the totally legal market together, it’s really close to a trillion dollars (U.S.) annually gambled on sports today.

Some people say $1 billion was bet worldwide on a single game four years ago. That event was the 2010 World Cup championship match.

The new report says that worldwide, organized crime uses sports betting to secretly move about $140 billion a year. And it says 30 percent of all that money passes through the Internet.

The report says Asia is responsible for 53 percent of the world’s illegal gambling. And it says illegal betting operations and legal gambling are linked.
David Forrest is with the University of Salford in Birmingham, England. He spoke to us on Skype.

“Those small guys tend to take the stake (the money bet) and quickly pass it on up a chain so they don’t handle the risk themselves. And at the top of this chain lie legal bookmakers, who are registered in the Philippines – the five biggest bookmakers in the world.”

Illegal gambling has taken on some of the customs of financial planners to reduce risk. For example, some Wall Street traders may take positions both for and against a stock to make sure that they do not lose money. Richard Borghesi of the University of Florida spoke to VOA on Skype.

“Illegal bookmakers will collect their bids. And if they wind up with a negative position on one side or the other, they will lay off (offset) their risk by betting on the opposite teams in the legalized gambling market.”

The report says the sports gambling industry needs to develop reporting and accountability systems like those that have been set up in recent years on world financial markets. Chris Eaton agrees.

“We need the same sort of cooperative model operating in the gambling side and the bookmaking side of international sports so we can see exactly who was transacting what—and how – so you can pick the anomalies.”

In sports, there are winners and there are losers. And money, a lot of money, is often involved. I’m Mario Ritter.

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