The global pandemic has greatly accelerated the digitalization of many industries, including state-authorized lotteries, and compelled them to develop and enhance their online offerings.

This is also true for illegal online betting operators that have taken advantage of technologies such as cryptocurrency for payments, which offer players anonymity and can lead to unlawful monies being laundered through their web sites around the world.

Additionally, such unregulated operators pose a threat to the legal lotteries and sports betting sector, because they do not ensure responsible gaming measures are taken to protect the well-being of players and those who may be vulnerable to gaming addiction, nor do they pay taxes like the legal lotteries, part of which funds good causes.

According to a task force set up to combat illegal betting by the Asian Racing Federation, as many as 80% of sports and racing bets worldwide are made illegally and the total amount wagered illegally may be between USD 340 billion and USD 1.7 trillion, as noted in its handbook Good practices in addressing illegal betting.

More than ever, the legal sports betting sector and sports world must continue to protect the integrity of sports and their reputations from the manipulation of competitions and illegal betting that is growing rapidly and has become a transnational issue.

Increased information exchange

Over the last year, the WLA has ramped up the actions it is taking to help combat illegal betting. Its Illegal Lotteries and Betting Committee (ILBC) produced an informative brochure, entitled Combatting illegal betting to protect the integrity of sports, which examines trends and technologies that have helped grow a global ecosystem of illegal betting operators.

The brochure looks at the impact such operators have on legal lotteries and sports betting and what the WLA is doing towards global efforts to protect sports integrity through collaboration with different organizations.

It considers the Council of Europe Convention on the Manipulation of Sports Competitions, also known as the Macolin Convention, which the WLA helped to draft and fully supports. The Convention is the only international accord in the global fight against the manipulation of sports competitions and illegal sports betting. It defines illegal betting and provides a legal framework for law enforcement, sports organizations, legal betting operators and competition organizers to help detect, sanction and ultimately prevent the manipulation of sports competitions.

The sports group of the WLA Betting Integrity on Sports & Horse Racing Committee (BISHRC) has developed a Sports Betting Marketing Best Practices brochure, which provides state lotteries with guidelines on how to position and market safe and responsible gaming products. The brochure also addresses the fight against illegal betting.

The WLA also produced a brief guide to the Macolin Convention, which examines the Convention’s key provisions, including the concept of establishing National Platforms. Serving as a hub for centralizing, analyzing, and sharing data essential in the fight against the manipulation of sports competitions, the National Platform brings together all relevant stakeholders in a united front against corruption in sports and illegal betting.

Awareness raising activities

As the global authority on the state-authorized lottery sector, the WLA is tasked with upholding the highest ethical principles and supporting its members in achieving their goals within their communities.

One of its objectives is to offer members learning opportunities and keep them updated of the latest global developments, to ensure members are consistent in their messages to all stakeholders.

In 2021, WLA dedicated a webinar to Unauthorized lottery and sports betting operations. One of the topics examined was unregulated gaming operations also known as synthetic lotteries, which allow consumers to participate in online lotteries that are developed on the offers of state-licensed lottery operations, from jurisdictions where the synthetic lottery is not authorized to do so. Concerns raised included the fact that consumers don’t get the same level of protection offered by legal lotteries and their impact on government revenues and return to good causes.

The webinar also featured a presentation from a blockchain technology expert, who highlighted the growing potential blockchain offers the lottery sector, from managing player identification, claims, and payouts, to enabling trust and reducing processing costs.

Greater collaboration with the Global Lottery Monitoring System ​

In January 2022, Luca Esposito, WLA Executive Director, began his role as General Secretary of the GLMS, an international association of state lotteries which aims to safeguard the integrity and core values of sports from corruption and from the manipulation of sports competitions.

This unique situation of working in both organizations allows Esposito to further strengthen their ties and support GLMS activities by drawing on WLA resources.

Esposito brings a broad knowledge of lottery and gaming technology and the specific needs of the state-authorized lottery and betting sector. He also has a deep understanding of sports betting and the issues pertaining to achieving sports integrity and has worked with many of the organizations involved in the united fight against illegal sports betting and match fixing.

In 2021, GLMS reported on the successful conclusion of the EU-funded IntegriSport Erasmus+ project it participated in, which served as a vehicle to raise awareness, increase cooperation, and provide support to law enforcement and judicial authorities in their fight against sport manipulation, and other related criminal activities which negatively impact sport, such as corruption, fraud, money laundering and conspiracy, among others. Seven countries were involved in the project, including: Cyprus, Finland, Hungary, The Netherlands, Lithuania, Portugal, The Slovak Republic.

GLMS took part as a betting stakeholder, through its members in the participating countries, and directly provided training on how to better understand the role of the national level betting operator, interpret monitoring reports and encourage co-operation between law enforcement and the betting operator in tackling sports manipulations.

Looking ahead

The WLA is working on new materials, planning more webinars and expects to hold some face-to-face meetings this year. It greatly values the exchange of information with its member and the broader lotteries and sports betting communities and remains focused on contributing to global efforts to fight illegal betting and sports manipulation.