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The need for centrally funded action to address the facet of integrity concerned with corruption is less obvious. The industry is already obliged under the
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The recent policy announcement by the Gambling Commission judged the situation fairly and accurately. It is more important to have consistency in the principles involved in investigating and rooting out corruption than to have an artificial consistency of process or a uniform funding arrangement. Heavy-handed intervention by a government agency would be disproportionate. If the Gambling Commission, the Government and ultimately the public are to be content for self-regulation to prevail, then the basic principles behind the process must be transparency, independence of decision-making and accountability, backed up with realistic sanctions if malpractice is uncovered. The expertise of bodies such as BISL and the Central Council for Physical Recreation could be drawn on to help. BISL has already developed a training standard which Gambling Commission inspectors use as the basis for their work. And the CCPR is commissioning more detailed research on the scale and nature of sports betting which should help to shape evidence-based measures in future.
This debate has been framed in terms of possible loss of integrity to sport. I would suggest that growth or innovation in betting exchanges and betting companies would stand just as much chance of provoking loss of integrity to the industry unless it rigorously observes the high standards in the voluntary code brokered by BISL and the statutory code which forms part of the new licensing regime. Enlightened self-interest means staying a step ahead of any problems associated with its productsand this is what the industry must do if it wants to retain its commercial freedoms and consent to self-regulation.
Baroness Golding: My Lords, I apologise for my husky voice, but with any luck it will last six minutes. I congratulate my noble friend on instigating this very important short debate. I have first of all to declare a number of interests. I am treasurer of the All-Party Racing and Bloodstock Group, treasurer of the All-Party Greyhound Group, chairman of the All-Party Betting and Gaming Groupand I am an administrative steward and director of the British Boxing Board of Control, to which I intend to limit my remarks.
One of the many positive things that came out of the Governments decision to present a new Gambling Bill was the obvious need for sports to work together to prevent fraud and to protect gamblers and the good name of sport. Having spent very many long hours on the pre-legislative scrutiny of the draft Bill,
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One of the sporting bodies that gave evidence was boxing. Because it is perceived as a dangerous sport, it is one of the most tightly controlled, with inspectors and representatives at every level and a reporting system in place. The British Boxing Board of Control is the regulatory and licensing authority for professional boxing and as such its members are not allowed to have any financial interest in boxing. Further, our rules do not allow professional boxing to take place in a venue where there are betting facilities. So although betting companies sponsor boxing, the board has no relationship with bookmakers at all. But that is not to say that people involved with boxing are not allowed to bet; they are. Indeed, I myself am known to have a few betsin fact, quite oftenbut I have never as yet bet on a boxing match and most of my friends with whom I discuss boxing do not either.
At the moment gambling is not a big issue for boxing, but that does not mean that it can be ignored. With the growth of exchanges and spread betting and more and more venues having agreements with bookmakers, boxing, like other sports, needs to look again. New regulations need to be put in place. We would not, for example, want to see betting facilities in the auditorium or betting after the boxers leave their dressing rooms. We also wish to consider who of those taking part would not be allowed to place bets and how far the board would be involved with the bookmakers. We have been fortunate in having the advice of Tom Kelly, the chief executive of the Association of British Bookmakers, because much of this is new ground for all of us.
The protection of the boxing boards good name is very important to us. Following our efforts we were pleased to be recognised by the Government and the Gambling Commission and registered on the list of sports governing bodies in the Gambling Act. For boxing this is an important time. We intend to move forward and in doing so will work closely with the Gambling Commission and the bookmakers to protect the integrity of all sports. In saying that I gently remind the Gambling Commission that those who have spent years running both sports and gambling know how they need to be run. The Gambling Commission should listen to the regulatory bodies and not spread its wings too wide.
Lord Addington: My Lords, this is an important debate about the integrity of sport. Many noble Lords will have heard me wax lyrical about the importance of sport and inspiring people to take part in it, as getting people to take exercise is the answer to many health problems. People need an icon to live up to. I do not care very much about gambling. It does nothing for me but it is capable of removing the romance from sport, which means that people in our increasingly sedentary society will move away from it.
Even if we do not care whether people are swindled when betting we should look at what is going on in the worlds of betting and sport, because gambling is
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Having worn my hair shirt, I ask: what can be done here? If we are to control gambling and the effects it has on sport, we need to have as much openness and transparency about the process as possible. As we all know, corruption succeeds best when it takes place in dark corners when people are not watching. How can we get this out into the open? The internet with its online gambling may expose corrupt practice. I hope that this will be reflected in the way things are regulated. Who do we look to in order to ensure that we are getting a fair result and protecting the integrity of sport?
The horseracing authority probably has the greatest expertise because it has probably had to deal with this problem longer than anyone else. I do not suggest that racing is particularly corrupt; that is probably not the case because it is subject to scrutiny. However, one should look at what has happened historically. The noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, mentioned the ancient Greek games. It was not just the ancient Olympics; all their games were subject to corruption. However, the anecdote that I like best concerns the state of cricket in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Much more money was bet on it than on horseracing and it was infinitely more corrupt. We can corrupt just about anything. Please can we make sure that we open up the whole process?
In the briefing I received for this debate it was suggested that if we can try to get away from betting shops recording who places bets in the form of a paper ticket and cash, we would have a far better tool to control this process. We should make sure that people record where bets come from and know where the flows of money come from and where the corruption is. I am sure that the betting industry will not like that suggestion and may view it as an intrusion, but the information would not have to be shared with anybody other than the two bodies involved in the transaction unless corruption was at issue. Certainly, there is no reason why a wife or husband should find out whether their spouse is placing bets, unless the latter is corrupt and gets caught. Surely such a process would be a way forward.
I reiterate that it is not the case that betting itself needs to be protected, rather it is the things which are attached to it. If we corrupt the ideology behind sport, we damage a social good. I hope that the Government will encourage the Gambling Commission to look at best practice where it exists and to take this problem seriously. The concept of corruption has always existed, as has the temptation. The only thing that changes is the way that we deal with it and ensuring that it is dealt with appropriately.
The Governments gambling policy was rushed through your Lordships' House just before the 2005 electionand it shows. Many problems that have arisen could have been avoided by a proper examination in this House, although if gambling is promoted as it has been by this Government, it is inevitable that problems will arise.
To me it is inconceivable that a Government aspiring to be honest or responsible should seek to benefit from human weakness, as this Government are doing by trying to make Britain the gambling capital of the world, but that is not what we are debating today. The report has many sensible suggestions which will make cheating more difficult. As noble Lords have pointed out, much can be done by sports governing bodies to eliminate undesirable betting practices. If there is gambling on any scale on sporting events, there will be those who try to alter the odds in their favour. It is a fact of life.
Any bet requires two parties to the transaction. Historically, betting on sport has been controlled by constant and rigorous monitoring of those accepting bets, such as bookmakers, and the monitoring of the sports themselves. With more gambling and more diverse forms of betting, control becomes increasingly difficult. Internet betting, with the ability to make contact with huge numbers of inexperienced punters, makes the possibilities for foul play virtually limitless. No longer will those seeking to gain an unfair advantage be betting against professionals such as bookmakers and casino operators who have the knowledge and ability to detect misdoing; they will be betting against members of the public who will be considerably more gullible and will rarely have the resources to retaliate if they have been taken advantage of. Taking advantage when betting on sport is easy and, unless large sums of money are involved, virtually undetectable. The noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, gave several examples, such as the number of cricketers wearing sunglasses.
One step that has not been mentioned would make a significant difference: curtailing severely online betting. This could be achieved by forbidding the use of credit cards to pay for internet gambling. There would be ways around this, but, generally speaking, only seasoned gamblers would bother. If the ability to contact other gamblers on a large scale is limited by pushing the public towards gambling on sport through licensed operators, then policing the sport becomes considerably easier. The limited number of licence holders would make it easier to monitor one side of the betting transaction; the other half of the transaction would be monitored by the licence holders by looking at and adjusting the odds of the bets placed with them on a minute-by-minute basis to protect themselves from being stung. That would be a rapid and flexible method of detecting wrongdoing.
As well as the many good ideas in this excellent report, I suggest that preventing rogues getting instant contact with large numbers of inexperienced and gullible gamblers would be the single most effective way of limiting corruption on sports betting.
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I agree with the House that my noble friend Lord Faulkner has introduced an important topic on the basis of his considerable expertise in this area. We recognise his work in developing the gambling legislation that he is now addressing and asking that we should utilise to provide solutions to some of these problems. The whole House is at one in agreeing that the integrity of sport could be threatened by illegitimate gambling and that it presents a real danger to every sport as well as to the ordinary individual who, as the noble Lord, Lord Howard, indicated, can be vulnerable to rogues who take advantage of the gullible.
The problem with gambling is that that the gambler, with the exception of a few professionals, always has an element of gullibility. That inevitable element is in the nature of taking on odds that others have presented for them. Both noble Lords from the Liberal Benches presented a strong argument on the need for integrity in sport. I know just how much the noble Lord, Lord Addington, values sport. The noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, demonstrated his enthusiasm for horseracing. Although I accept their strong representations and wish to show how the Government are responding to them, I reject the contention of the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, that the Governments gambling policy has been disastrous. Far from it. He cited the casinos issue; but we all know the history of that, which is scarcely relevant to this debate, anyway, and I am certainly not going to reiterate it. We all know why the casinos were presented as a problem in the rushed-through legislation just before the completion of the 2004-05 Session.
However, that legislation provided for the establishment of the Gambling Commission. As my noble and well informed friend Lord Faulkner, said, the Gambling Commission holds the key to ensuring integrity in sport and proper control of gambling. I reassure the noble Viscount that not only have the Government created and been responsible for a piece of legislation that gives us the instruments for controlling illegal gambling acts, but we are using it.
That is very important, because, even if there were no expansion of casinos and the Government stood idly byand the Government do not have much to do with the free market of gambling, anywaygambling is increasing, not just in the United Kingdom, but across all developed countries where disposable income is increasing. It is a corollary of increased resources and private wealth, because it is a luxury good. It is not essential, but it certainly attracts peoples extra resources, because they find it an attractive leisure pursuit. Although at times, as the noble Lord, Lord James, was keen to emphasise, some of this activity takes place in bookmakers, which scarcely look like leisure centres, at this stage I cannot
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I assure the noble Lord that the Gambling Commission will take the keenest interest in his suggestion that virtual racing may lead to rigged odds and corruption. That is what he described. It is an important point and he has done nothing but good in highlighting the issue in this debate, but I reassure him that the Gambling Commission is responsible for the proper conduct of bookmakers. That is an important dimension of its work, and he may have highlighted something to which the commission should direct its attention.
The crucial point put forward by all noble Lords in the debate and emphasised in the opening remarks of my noble friend Lord Faulkner is the need for co-operation and effective liaison between the sports bodies and betting organisations. The betting organisations know what is going on when they see clear irregularities and the sporting bodies are all too well aware of the way in which potential corruption can occur, so the link of information between those bodies is of the greatest significance. We created the Gambling Commission to fulfil that role, and I reassure my noble friend that it is a condition of the bookmakers licence that they provide such a link with the sporting organisations. He has canvassed for that for a number of years and our legislation makes its realisation possible.
Tough new rules in the Gambling Act mean that decisive action can be taken against those who cheat. That is the basis of integrity in sporta point that has been reflected in every contribution to this debate. A sport which loses its integrity loses the very concept of sport, and that is why cheating must be stamped out. Of course, cheating is reflected in illegal gambling where sporting endeavour is rigged.
The Government have not only been active with regard to the Gambling Act and are not just concerned that the Gambling Commission should fulfil its role. In 2005, the former Minister for Sport, Richard Caborn, established a 10-point plan to help uphold integrity in sports betting. The crucial themes underlying all those points is the important role of sports governing bodies, their relationship to bookmakers and the effective exchange of information.
The growth of online and offshore betting, which raises particular problems, was also identified. Of course, there are limitations on effective government action in relation to offshore betting that lies outside our jurisdiction. However, we regulate online betting in this country and, if punters bet with an online betting firm here, it is guaranteed to be subject to our regulation.
We are seeking to ensure that offshore betting meets the same standards as we set in the United Kingdom, although that is easier said than done. Some international jurisdictions clearly respond to this. States within the European Community play their part in ensuring such integrity, but we also know of locations where offshore
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The betting industry is growing but, nevertheless, this country has the highest-developed sense of sporting ethics in the world. This country will not tolerate cheating, wherever it manifests itself. It has been necessary, through the gambling legislation, to ensure that there are effective channels between bookmakers, who are vulnerable to such cheating, and the organisations in sport which would be ruined if cheating became rife. They must work together to ensure that we have the necessary controls.
None of us can be complacent. That is why my noble friend introduced this debate today and why there have been such impassioned contributions from all sides of the House about the importance of the integrity of sport. Nevertheless, I emphasise that the Government take this issue very seriously. They have the weapons and the mechanisms for guaranteeing that we protect the high standards of sport and the high standards of the betting industry in this country.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, we have always said that refusing long-term failed asylum seekers the right to work is economically illiterate and gratuitously damaging in human terms. It deprives society of the contribution that they can make with their skills and abilities and it is absolutely demoralising for the individuals concerned, whose only alternatives are to live on the charity of friends or relatives or to work illegally.
In the case of Zimbabweans, which I have mentioned previously, the Government are legally unable to deport such people for the time being, even if it were not
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