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Old point conceded, or new one announced?

It is interesting to see towards the end of Paul Kelso’s column this morning that the Sports Betting Group has written to the Treasury Minister (who is no longer Mark Hoban, but presumably they wrote before the reshuffle) to ask him to “close a loophole that they believe could allow cheats to prosper”. The loophole in question is that spread betting companies are regulated by the FSA and not the Gambling Commission.

I have written before about the fact that players are in the easiest position to manipulate and profit from the spread markets, and that this obvious fact is the reason why most spread companies haven’t offered the sort of markets that are often quoted as being a threat to sport’s integrity in years (sunglasses on head, etc.). Matt le Tissier’s autobiography explains not just the theory of this, but the fact – as practised by the player himself. It was published in 2005, about events in the 1990s, but let’s ignore the obvious question why, if ‘appropriate regulation’ is absent, letters requesting it are only being written now.

My reason for finding it interesting is that in writing to the Treasury Minister, Sport is, it seems to me, either belatedly accepting an old point it resisted vehemently, or perhaps is making a new one which the betting industry would welcome.

When I was on the Parry Commission looking at issues of integrity in sport, my main beef was what I saw as Sport’s failure to see the big picture of how to address threats to its integrity, which I believed (and still believe) is the result of an obsession with the wrong things, driven ultimately by a desire to extract a betting right from sport. I have addressed this in some detail in the past, so I won’t go into it at length here except to say again that I think that if the issues of funding and integrity were genuinely separated, then the two industries have a lot of common ground, and working together, they would make a powerful team (as co-operation over the Olympics showed).

To illustrate my point in our meetings, though, I used to comment regularly about the fact that Sport’s consequent obsession with wanting to introduce new requirements for internet betting meant that it had appeared to miss exactly the point being made by the letter reported today: spread betting is not betting at all in law, but ‘contracts for differences’ that therefore came under the auspices of the FSA.

So regularly did I bring this up, in fact, that at one of our gatherings, I really quite upset one of those present representing sport: he rounded on me with his eyes flashing angrily, and told me I was muddying the waters on purpose to make it harder to reach consensus. It was, he said, clear to everyone that it was betting, and that was why it was called betting – a comment which I replied was missing the point. I recall that it needed the intervention of the Commission Chairman to calm things down.

In now deciding that spreads are indeed regulated differently, Sport might argue that it has woken up to the position that was then being pointed out then, and accepts that there is a difference in legislation that their previous lobby has failed to address.

But in now suggesting that there is not ‘appropriate regulation’ round spreads, doesn’t it imply that there is around everything else?



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Continuing the Discussion

  1. Talk, don’t write | Mark Davies linked to this post on October 5, 2012

    […] seen the Paul Kelso article that I posted about the other day, he sent me a note in response to my blog and asked if I wouldn’t mind putting it up. I publish what he sent me in full […]

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