AFL and NRL linked to crime cash in illegal betting report
Crooked cash is flooding into illegal betting markets on Australian racing, the AFL and NRL, raising fears of match fixing and corruption.
A new landmark report into illegal gambling warns criminals are increasingly targeting sports to launder money made through criminal activities.
At least $1 billion in Australia was being wagered on illegal betting markets, an Asian Racing Federation report found.
"The globalisation of sport and betting has been a perfect combination for the corruption of racing and other sport," the report said.
"Match-fixers can arrange a fix safe in the knowledge that leading Asian illegal bookmakers often accept large bets on even obscure sporting events."
The report, described as a handbook for racing authorities and other sports, also highlighted how the AFL and NRL were now more closely linked with gambling through sponsorship deals and advertising.
The risk of illegal gambling was also seen when the Melbourne Cup's integrity was questioned following a horse doping scandal uncovered in 2018.
Graham Ashton, who set up the world's first Sporting Integrity Unit when he was head of Victoria Police, warned that the coronavirus pandemic had made the problem worse.
The former Victoria Police Chief Commissioner and AFP veteran who investigated the Bali bombings has now taken up a position on the Asian Racing Federation's anti-illegal betting task force.
Mr Ashton said during the COVID-19 pandemic there has been a significant upswing in punters using illegal operators.
"This has been because of the large scale cancellation of so many sporting events," he told News Corp Australia.
"Punters have had to look further afield and to more non-mainstream sports to satisfy their needs.
"The illegal operators seized this opportunity by also focussing on marketing to these exotic sports as well. This is particularly true of E-Sports."
His comments come as the Asian Racing Federation released a new guide on Friday on how to tackle illegal gambling, based on more than two years of research across the globe, including in Australia.
Damian Voltz, a senior analyst at the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission and Tim Robinson, general manager of integrity at Racing Victoria contributed to the report.
Brant Dunshea, an Australian who oversees regulations at the British Horseracing Authority, was also part of the work, along with racing authorities from Hong Kong and New Zealand.
Illegal betting outlets pay no tax and do not return dividends to sports, allowing them to offer better odds than legal operators.
Mr Ashton said there were concerns that some punters would stick with the illegal outlets when sport gets back to normal.
"Our traditional betting operators will be under more pressure than ever to improve their services," he said.
"It's time to innovate, and for regulators to recognise the need for that innovation and support them. Punters will be happy to bet with on shore legal operators if the product is competitive," Mr Ashton said.
Sport Integrity Australia said in a statement: "The unregulated markets are utilised by serious and organised crime entities to obscure their activities, manipulate markets and protect their criminal enterprise.
"These organised crime entities pose a significant enduring threat to the personal integrity of elite and sub-elite players, and by extension, the competitions.
"Sport Integrity Australia, in partnership with our criminal intelligence and law enforcement partners take the threat seriously, implementing strong and robust protective measures."
Originally published as AFL and NRL linked to crime cash in illegal betting report