The Soccer World Cup is with us once again. With it comes plenty
of talk of integrity in sport, not only in how sports are played
but also in how they are administered. And we can't forget how
gambling can impact on both.
There is no doubt that technology allows gambling to be
available almost anywhere at any time. And in Australia, there are
no real or effective impediments to participate in online gambling.
It is freely available, with thousands of regulated and
un-regulated sites eagerly reaching out to Australians to send
their hard earned off-shore.
So while the punters are free to roam across the various
options, where are we at with protecting against match fixing and
other corrupt activities? In the recent past, State governments
have passed into criminal law new offences which aim to make the
corruption of betting outcomes in sports punishable by jail time
(eg, NSW Crimes Act sections 193H-Q). A core feature of these
crimes is that the conduct concerned does, or could, corrupt the
outcome of betting on the sport. So far, so good.
What about enforcement? Well, we've seen the recent high
profile convictions of those involved in match fixing of Victorian
Premier League soccer matches. We've also seen the highly
publicised arrest and lesser publicised withdrawal of criminal
action against the UK visitor who was passing results back to his
UK employer from court-side at the Australian Open earlier this
year. Mixed results I'd say.
The criminal offences are just that – criminal. So sports
controlling bodies have an obligation to report their suspicions to
police, not gambling regulators. The police then investigate. In
the right cases, the police will seek prosecution and jail time can
result. Information collected by the police about any individual
(guilty or innocent) should be kept confidential, in the usual way
police do such things.
Given these possible consequences, sports controlling bodies
therefore have an obligation to report people to police only where
they have a real and genuine belief that an offence may have been
committed. This obligation should be carefully and scrupulously
exercised, only where the facts and circumstances actually might
fall within the offence. To make sure that happens, sports
controlling bodies should base their decisions on a thorough
understanding of what constitutes the offence.
What sports controlling bodies should not do is jump to
conclusions too quickly. Remember, anyone can use their mobile
phone to gamble anywhere at any time. A person is not breaching any
law by doing so. Sports venues don't prohibit the use of mobile
technology for gambling purposes while at the venue. Nor are there
restrictions on bringing other forms of mobile technology into
sports venues, eg, tablets and laptops, for legitimate and lawful
So those same sports controlling bodies that permit mobile
technology should be careful when they point the finger at their
paying customers and fans. Detaining people while police are called
to attend is a potentially inflammatory situation. Individual
freedoms can be abused and a person's character can be defamed.
Calling on the "greater good" does not excuse trashing a
person's rights. Repeated bad calls on this will contribute to
a loss of confidence in those who are entrusted with governing the
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.
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