Football: S$175 billion lost in sports betting: Report

PARIS - Asian dominated criminal groups are laundering more than US$140 billion (S$175.43 billion) dollars of illegal sports betting, mainly on football, a watchdog group said Thursday.

The International Centre for Sport Security (ICCS), in a report released less than a month before the World Cup starts, said illegal gambling is a growing threat especially to football and cricket.

But it added that tennis, basketball, badminton and motor racing are also affected.

Eighty per cent of sports gambling is illegally carried out, according to the researchers from the Doha-based ICSS and Sorbonne University in Paris.

"Betting threatens all countries and regions, with football and cricket the sports most under siege," said the report.

The ICCS estimated that wagers worth between $275 billion and $685 billion are made each year around the world with more than 80 per cent made illegally.

Legal betting only provides about $5.5 billion in tax revenues, it said.

Asia and Europe represent 85 per cent of the total legal and illegal market and Asia accounts for 53 per cent of the illegal market.

While the researchers estimated there are about 8,000 legal operators mainly operating in offshore low tax zones they said it was "impossible" to say how many illegal gambling operations exist.

Chris Eaton, ICSS director of sport integrity said: "The rapid evolution of the global sports betting market has seen an increased risk of infiltration by organised crime and money laundering.

"Alongside this, the transformation of the nature of betting, with more complex types of betting, such as live-betting, which according to this study is the most vulnerable, has made suspect activity even harder to detect," he added.

With cases of match-fixing spreading, the report called for an international convention on the manipulation of sporting events.

"It is clear that current international instruments are insufficient and there is a desperate need for well-designed criminal laws specific to the manipulation of sport," said Laurent Vidal, Chair of the Sorbonne-ICSS Research Programme.

"An international agreement on the manipulation of sport competition, coordinated by an overarching global platform, is now an urgent necessity," he added.

The cricket and football world governing bodies have both set up anti-corruption units. But police and experts say bribery is spreading.

Seven players from English lower-league clubs were arrested by British police in April for alleged spot-fixing, with six others re-arrested.

Vidal said that numerous Asian championships are "fixed".

"The Chinese are not interested in local sport any more, that is why they bet on European sport." He told AFP there were certain provinces in the Philippines that do not check where money comes from.

"Match fixing and gambling is at the basis of laundering dirty money. Before arms traffickers and slave traders were laundering money when they would put in 100 units and get 60 at the end.

"With gambling they invest 100 and get 95 back. These are money laundering machines." India and Pakistan have faced repeat cricket match-fixing scandals. And former New Zealand cricketer Lou Vincent has opened up to investigators about widespread match-fixing in several countries, New Zealand Cricket chief executive David White said Thursday.

Vincent has confirmed that he was approached by bookmakers.

British newspaper the Daily Telegraph has reported that Vincent has provided evidence about match or spot fixing during competitions in England, India, New Zealand, Hong Kong and South Africa.