Interview: Avoiding a sticky wicket as cricket's showpiece begins

Interview: Avoiding a sticky wicket as cricket's showpiece begins

Friday, February 13, 2015 Totally Gaming

On the eve of the 2015 Cricket World Cup, asked European Sports Security Association (ESSA) chairman Mike O’Kane about the regulated gambling industry’s approach to the international tournament. Is the Cricket World Cup a competition that causes particular concern for ESSA, regulated gambling companies and cricket's governing bodies?


Mike O’Kane: “I think that we approach it in the same vein we always have. We are aware that certain sports and competitions are potentially more likely to attract corrupters than other sporting events and we set our risk assessment strategies in line with that.

“There has been a lot of focus on cricket recently due to the Indian Premier League investigation and there is some concern regarding the ability of the cricket authorities to deal with this issue, but we have no information to suggest that the World Cup is at increased risk.

“Given the history and attention on cricket at the moment, it could be argued that there are easier targets for corrupters. That said, we will be working with the relevant authorities and remaining vigilant throughout the event.” The worldwide unregulated betting market is enormous. How much of a difference can ESSA make?

MOK: “Whilst the unregulated market is believed to be considerable, there is still a very large regulated market and ESSA represents many of the major regulated operators in that. There is no doubt that our monitoring systems have had a significant positive impact in detecting and deterring corrupters from our markets.

“We can’t control what goes on in the unregulated sector, our goal is to ensure that we do our best to protect operators and consumers in our regulated markets. Without ESSA’s influence, the regulated landscape would look very different.”

'The regulated sector doesn’t get enough credit... but is sport doing enough to keep its events free from corruption?' - Mike O'Kane Is the regulated gambling industry doing enough to keep sport free of fixing?

MOK: “I’d argue that the regulated sector doesn’t get enough credit and a more pertinent question might be ‘is sport doing enough to keep its events free from corruption?’ Whilst there are some positive examples such as snooker and the Stephen Lee case, there are still far too many sports where governance in this area is weak, lacking sufficient rules, investigative strength and effective sanctions.

“Policymakers are becoming more aware of sport’s deficiencies and ESSA is arguing that there should be more focus on that issue.” How important is the relationship between the gambling sector and sports organisations?

MOK: “Putting the issue of the unregulated betting sector to one side, the relationship between sport and regulated operators is vital if we want to truly address match-fixing. Both parties have a clear need to ensure the integrity of sporting events and preventative actions, such as information sharing and education initiatives, should be a natural product of that.

“The problem has been the inequitable approach taken by some sports bodies who, lacking any real evidence, are quick to point the finger at our sector but slow in addressing their own internal governance issues. That has changed to an extent, with bodies like the International Olympic Committee taking a welcome positive partnership and evidence-based approach on integrity.

“However, for some sports there remains a reluctance to engage with betting operators and we still encounter what are essentially commercially driven agendas when debating this issue. A major stumbling block is in the area of information sharing. The data protection legislation is clear that betting operators have to be confident that any data would be protected within the sports bodies. At this time there are very few sports bodies that deliver that confidence.”

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