POSTED: October 11th 2010

IOC urged to consider 'WADA equivalent' for internet betting

Maria Sharapova: the sound of a betting bonanza /
Maria Sharapova: the sound of a betting bonanza /

KEIR RADNEDGE in Monaco / Sports Features Communications

MONTE CARLO, Oct 11: The International Olympic Committee should oversee a worldwide harmonisation of controls on sports betting, the urgency for action necessitated by the internet gambling explosion.

That proposal was launched at SPORTELMonaco by Denis Masseglia, president of the French national Olympic committee (CNOSF), during a roundtable debate on the issue.

He said: “All sides mostly agree on the need for international harmonisation [of sports betting controls] because the internet knows no borders;  if the rules are different in one country compared with another, then sport’s credibility will be affected.

“A lot has been achieved in a short time: for a long time illegality was associated with sports betting and sport had to develop something legal and responsible but which needs to be harmonised at international level. The International Committee has a role to play.”

Masseglia suggested that the lessons learned in creating the World Anti-Doping Agency and turning it into an effective force of international control could be valuable.

Legal frameworks

Asked to clarify a role for the IOC, Masseglia added: “When any federation feels a need to modify its methodology we all understand the need for international harmonisation so it’s logical to submit this issue to the IOC.

“It will take time, however, to analyse the legal frameworks in different countries. It’s extremely important to harmonise the different types of sports betting. If you can do one type of betting in one country and not in another there is a contradiction: this is why the anti-doping experience can be of benefit in the sports betting field.”

Earlier Masseglia and Jean-Francois Vilotte, president of the French regulatory authority for online gaming, had reviewed the significance of a new domestic legislation aimed at freeing up the market while simultaneously protecting the credibility of sport and preventing money laundering, addiction, etc.

Christophe Blanchard-Dignac, ceo of La Francaise des Jeux, defended the sports betting industry against suggestions that it should shoulder much of the cost of regulation.

“The regulatory authorites, police, Interpol and sport itself must all play their role as well as the betting operators,” said Blanchard-Dignac. “The operators don’t want sport brought into question because that would kill the object of their activity. The right to bet depends on maintenance of an event’s credibility. Sports betting operators are here to serve the cause of sports and not to use it to their own benefit."

Industry investment

The argument for a harmonisation of international controls, albeit financed by betting industry money, was supported by Italian Francesco Ricci Bitti, president of the International Tennis Federation and an IOC member. He used the on-court 'audio style' of players such as Maria Sharapova and the Williams sisters Venus and Serena as an example.

Ricci Bitti said: “With the internet you can bet on everything: for example, the first time in a tennis match when a girl starts grunting. We want to limit this and give the sports organiser – the property owner, if you like - a right to say: ‘We can accept this form of betting but not that form of betting because it will be more open to fraud.’

“Public interest needs laws which carry criminal sanctions – and we need harmonisation in Europe because professional sport is an international activity . . . . these are messages from the IOC, maybe a bit late but very clear.”

Ricci Bitti also appreciated the need for a WADA equivalent but the finance model should be different.

He said: “With anti-doping, initially, the International Olympic Committee put money on the table but it has not done so for betting because here the money must come from betting operators to help defend the integrity of sport.”

Keywords · SportelMonaco · Ricci Bitti · Masseglia · Blanchard-Dignac · online betting · internet betting

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