The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has expressed concerns that illegal sports betting syndicates might target the London 2012 Olympics as a field ripe for match-fixing. The Committee is already putting together an action plan to help them combat the issue should it arise.
The plan mostly involves closely monitoring betting patters at the largest online sportsbooks in the UK, but also includes sending operatives to the games themselves to keep an eye out for signs of gambling-related corruption. One concern is that illegal bookmakers might try corrupting athletes, thereby compromising the solidity of the games.
“It is clear that betting, through the financial benefits it generates, provides huge opportunities to sports organisations. However, there is a significant problem when betting leads to the manipulation of competitions and therefore threatens the integrity of sport,” says IOC president Jacques Rogge.
The plan obviously relies on cooperation from the global gambling sector, with a special focus on groups that offer internet betting in the United Kingdom and Europe. Effective pooling and sharing of betting data will help the IOC isolate and identify patterns that could point to match-fixing activities.
In the past, the IOC has used a company called EWS (Early Warning System) to monitor betting, but for the London 2012 Olympics they have set up their own Swiss-registered service, International Sports Monitoring (ISM). ISM already has agreements with major internet bookmakers across Europe, who have agreed to share information betting patterns that might help the Committee investigate potential match fixing threats.
ISM values privacy, and typically only collects non-identifying information about bets, including the volume and amount of bets placed on particular events. The identity of the bettors is not usually shared by bookmakers. Betfair sportsbook, however, has agreed to pass on all information, including bettor names – a move which has caused some frustration among Betfair members.
The London 2012 Olympics are suspected to break all records for Olympic sports betting, so the IOC and ISM have their work cut out for them.