Match-fixing and sports betting have been the subject of intense scrutiny in the last twelve months, and yet they remain in the spotlight of Federal and State Governments, law enforcement agencies and peak sport bodies as further controversy embroils the industry.
In September 2013, it emerged that police had uncovered a multi-million-dollar soccer match-fixing syndicate involving a semi-professional Victorian Premier League soccer team. Six men associated with the Southern Stars Football Club (including the alleged syndicate ringleader in Australia, four players and the head coach) have been charged under new Victorian match-fixing laws for the alleged fixing of five Victorian Premier League matches.
The Purana Taskforce and Sporting Integrity Intelligence Unit began the investigation in August 2013 after a tip-off from Football Federation Australia. Authorities have so far identified more than A$2 million in betting winnings collected by the syndicate. Police believe more arrests are likely as the syndicate may extend to other clubs in Victoria, Queensland and overseas. The six men are due back in court later this year.
In light of these recent developments in what is likely to be Australia's largest sports-betting scandal, this article considers the Australian legislative response to match-fixing in sports and provides a summary of the key elements of the new match-fixing laws in Victoria.
In early June 2011, the Australian Sports Ministers (both Federal and State) endorsed the "National Policy on Match-Fixing in Sport" (Policy). The aim of the Policy was to protect the integrity of Australian sport and encourage all governments to address the issue of inappropriate and fraudulent sports betting and match-fixing activities.
On 30 September 2011, the group of Sports Ministers subsequently endorsed a model to give effect to the Policy and agreed to take the proposed model to their respective Governments for consideration and implementation.
The Victorian Government introduced new match fixing legislation, which came into effect on 24 April 2013. The Crimes Amendment (Integrity in Sports) Act 2013 (Vic) creates a series of new offences under the Crimes Act 1958 (Vic) (Crimes Act) in relation to corrupting the betting outcomes of events or event contingencies (i.e. essentially something happening or not happening – see further below) on which it is lawful to place bets.
The changes in Victoria aim to address a key objective of the Policy, namely to pursue a nationally consistent approach to criminal offences in relation to match fixing and cheating at gambling. The new offences contained in the Crimes Act are targeted at addressing a set of match fixing, race fixing and cheating at gambling behaviours that all jurisdictions have agreed to cover in their legislative arrangements.
So far, similar legislation has also been adopted in New South Wales in the Crimes Amendment (Cheating at Gambling) Act 2012 (NSW), South Australia in the Criminal Law Consolidation (Cheating at Gambling) Amendment Act 2013 (SA), the Australian Capital Territory in the Criminal Code (Cheating at Gambling) Amendment Act 2013 (ACT) and the Northern Territory in the Criminal Code Amendment (Cheating at Gambling) Act 2013 (NT).
Of course consistent legislation across the different States is critical as sporting codes operate across Australian jurisdictional boundaries and gambling within one State or Territory occurs with respect to events in other States and Territories.
This issue is becoming increasing important ahead of Australia hosting the Cricket World Cup and Asian Federation Football Cup in 2015.
What are the new offences under the Crimes Act?
The Crimes Act aims to outlaw four key types of offences:
1. Engaging in conduct that corrupts or would corrupt a betting outcome of an event or event contingency;
2. Facilitating conduct that corrupts or would corrupt a betting outcome of an event or event contingency;
3. Concealing such conduct, agreements or arrangements; and
4. Use of corrupt information for betting purposes.
As a result of the amendments, the Crimes Act now contains offences which prohibit persons from knowingly or recklessly engaging in or facilitating conduct that corrupts, or would corrupt, a betting outcome of an event or an event contingency with the intention of obtaining a financial advantage or causing a financial advantage in relation to any betting on an event. Such "facilitating" conduct includes offering to engage in or encouraging another person to engage in corrupt conduct.
A person is also prohibited from knowingly or recklessly encouraging another person to conceal such corrupt conduct, or an agreement or arrangement in respect of such corrupt conduct, from the police or other authorities empowered to regulate betting on an event with the intention of obtaining a financial advantage or causing a financial advantage in relation to any betting on an event.
Further, a person who possesses information about such corruption and knows, or is reckless as to whether, that information is about corrupt conduct must not:
(a) bet on the relevant event or event contingency; or
(b) encourage another person to bet on the event or event contingency in a particular way; or
(c) communicate the information, or cause the information to be communicated, to another person who the first person knows or ought reasonably to know would, or would be likely to, bet on the event or event contingency.
What is an "event" and "event contingency"?
The definition of "event" is broadly defined in the Crimes Act so as to not be limited to sporting events. It encompasses any event that takes place in Victoria or elsewhere on which it is lawful to bet or cause a bet to be placed.
An "event contingency" is defined to include all contingencies connected to an event on which a bet can be made, such as the score at a particular stage of an event or which team or player scores first in a football match.
What constitutes a "bet"?
Similarly, the definition of "bet" is broad so as to capture all legal forms of gambling and extends to include bets on event contingencies. A bet will include placing, accepting or withdrawing a bet, as well as causing a bet to be placed, accepted or withdrawn.
What type of conduct will corrupt a betting outcome of an event or event contingency?
The phrase "conduct that corrupts or would corrupt a betting outcome of an event or an event contingency" means conduct that:
(a) affects or, if engaged in, would or would be likely to affect the outcome of any type of betting on the event or event contingency; and
(b) is contrary to the standards of integrity that a reasonable person would expect of persons in a position to affect the outcome of any type of betting on the event or event contingency.
This is a phrase that is fundamental to each of the new offences. There must be a connection between the conduct and the outcome of the betting and the conduct must be inappropriate in the circumstances. For example, strategic and tactical decisions made during an event, or honest errors and breaches of the rules such as foul play are unlikely to constitute corrupt conduct for the purpose of the above definition. Whilst these might affect the betting outcome, they would not generally be considered contrary to the standards of integrity applicable to those persons participating in the event. Whether conduct is contrary to the standards of integrity is a question of fact to be determined in each specific case.
What constitutes obtaining a financial advantage or causing a financial disadvantage in connection with any betting on the event or the event contingency?
Liability under the Crimes Act is limited to circumstances where a person "obtains a financial advantage" or "causes a financial disadvantage". It does not cover conduct that might affect the betting outcome of an event if a financial outcome is not involved.
The definition of "obtaining a financial advantage"includes:
(a) obtaining a financial advantage for oneself or another person; and
(b) inducing a third person to do something that results in obtaining a financial advantage for oneself or for another person; and
(c) retaining a financial advantage that one has,
whether the financial advantage is permanent or temporary.
The definition "causing a financial disadvantage"includes:
(a) causing a financial disadvantage to another person; and
(b) inducing a third person to do something that results in another person suffering a financial disadvantage, whether the financial disadvantage is permanent or temporary.
What are the penalties?
Anyone found guilty and convicted of any of the new offences faces a maximum sentence of 10 years imprisonment.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.