Inside ESSA’s ‘Kick Crime Out of Sport’ Pledge

In the modern era of global sports betting, both bettors and the books themselves can be victims of sportsbetting. There’s seldom much that individual victims that can do, meaning those bettors that end up on the wrong side of a crooked match or bet. But the bookmakers themselves suffer larger collective losses, so they’re always incentivized to help stamp out crooked action. That’s the prelude to ESSA and its latest initiative, a “Kick Crime Out of Sport” pledge.

essa-logoESSA, a non-English acronym for “Sports Betting Integrity,” is a voluntary cooperative of over a dozen prominent European bookmakers who share suspect wagering information with both international authorities and numerous sports organizations, including but not limited to INTERPOL, the International Olympic Committe (IOC), and British and French authorities. The collective goal: Helping identify both the rigged games and the people behind the crooked action.

The group goes on to describe itself as an independent, “not-for-profit organisation, whose members operate through retail, on-line and telephone channels, all of which have KYC, anti-money laundering and regulatory requirements that protect betting and sports integrity. The role of ESSA is to provide an early warning system with the specific aim of detecting and deterring the corruption of ESSA members’ betting markets through the manipulation of sporting events. All ESSA members must be licensed making their operations subject to control and enforcement of public authorities such as gambling regulatory bodies.”

ESSA uses a two-tier system to identify suspect betting activity, including standardised internal controls and a cooperative early-warning system to notify all stakeholders of the possible fraudulent action. According to the group’s online home, “Contrary to other systems that primarily rely on publicly available external market information such as the movement off betting odds displayed on websites, the ESSA system is based upon a wider base of factual and real time information within ESSA members’ own internal systems.” And spurred by the ongoing, expanding scandals in professional tennis, it’s a good time for ESSA to publicize itself and its new mission in helping curb such activity.

ESSA’s “Kick Crime Out of Sport” initiative, or KCOOS, is an 18-month project to root out fraudulent activity that’s funded by the European Union, in direct response to the European Commission’s call for “cooperation between public and private actors to identify sports betting risks.” The group’s bullet-point agenda includes:

• Assisting countries in implementing the convention nationally, including transposition of the Convention into national legislation;

• Gathering information on the current status in the fight against match fixing and sports betting regulations and to build a network of national contacts;

• Offering practical assistance and to facilitate the exchange of good practices among countries through regional seminars, study visits and expert missions; and

• Assisting with the setting up of national platforms, regulatory structures and other supporting structures and to strengthen the institutional capacity of relevant authorities.

Said Khalid Ali, the Secretary General of ESSA. “The project marks another important milestone in the development of an effective and coordinated international collaboration between key stakeholders that are intent on driving criminals out of sport. Responsible regulated betting operators want nothing else than sport to be free from manipulation and will do whatever we can to help to achieve that.”

As mentioned, the group’s statement is well-timed, what with the ongoing problems in pro tennis.  Following the recent emergence of claims of fixed matches involving dozens of largely second-tier pros, a second betting-related scandal in tennis has emerged in recent days.  The UK-based Guardian that at least six tennis umpires have been investigated for assisting underground betting syndicates by delaying the reporting of the results of specific matches at minor events, allegedly allowing their cohorts to capitalize on results via “in play” wagering.  One official from Kazakstan has been banned for life, one from Croatia has been given a 12-month suspension, and the investigation continues into four others.

As for ESSA, the group’s public-awareness group has a secondary purpose, that being to warn off, in a manner of speaking, suspected criminal elements who might be tempting to place rigged bets with the group’s member books.  The group’s 15 listed members include ABB, Bet365, Bet-at-home.com, Betclic, Betsson, BetVictor, Betway, bwin.party, Digibet, Expekt, Hong Kong Jockey Club, Interwetten, Ladbrokes, PaddyPower, SkyBet, StanleyBet, Unibet and William Hill.

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