etting integrity body ESSA relaunched today as the International Betting Integrity Association with immediate effect. The move highlights the association’s desire to better reflect the global debate around betting and integrity issues and their leading role in that discussion. The association will continue to represent many of the largest regulated sports betting operators in the world with almost 50 brands feeding into its monitoring and alert platform.
Through collective action, this is an effective anti-corruption tool that detects and reports suspicious activity on its members’ betting markets. The association has longstanding information sharing partnerships with leading sports and gambling regulators to utilize its data and prosecute corruption. It represents the sector at high-level policy discussion forums.
Jon Russell, non-executive Chair of the association’s Board and Head of Global Trading at Betway, explained: “Our members represent a sizeable part of the worldwide regulated betting market and their business strategies reflect global ambitions. Integrity has become a key regulatory issue in that market debate, with membership of a monitoring body a licensing requirement in some cases.” Russell added: “Betting and integrity are now inseparable and I encourage all responsible operators to join us and take advantage of the multifaceted business benefits membership brings.”
Asked about LatAm emerging online markets, Khalid Ali, Secretary General of the International Betting Integrity Association, tells Yogonet that their members represent a sizeable part of the worldwide regulated betting market and their business strategies reflect global ambitions with many of them looking to obtain licenses in Latin America: “Which is why we, as an association, need to develop to reflect this growing trend.”
How does the change of brand and image of ESSA relate to the interest in this new emerging online sports betting market?
ESSA was well-known with stakeholders but was identified with a specific geographical region (Europe). In 2018 we conducted a review of ESSA and there was overwhelming support from members and our key external partners to rebrand. The new name communicates more clearly who we are and what we do on the international stage, this is important as our members seek to be licensed in regions such as Latin America.
You work with sports betting operators and federations. How do you interact with suppliers such as Sportradar and Genius Sports that offer services aimed at preventing fraud and match-fixing?
The International Betting Integrity Association is not for profit, which means we are funded by our members the sports betting operators and we provide our services to sport and regulators for free. We have created an affiliate membership, which the Perform group (who provide integrity services to sports) is a member, we have monthly calls with them to update them on the alert trends we are seeing and they also reciprocate. We have spoken to Sportradar and Genius Sport about joining but as yet neither has expressed an interest to join, I hope that may change now we have rebranded.
ESSA supports that a fundamental basis of any framework that effectively guarantees sporting integrity requires a policy at the national level. What happens in those countries where there is no single regulatory authority for gambling, as it’s the case in Argentina? What do you propose for these cases?
One of the things we advocate is for informed policymaking, which means making evidence-based, proportionate measures that keep betting within regulated channels and thereby reduce corruption. Obviously, if there is a lack of a regulatory authority this makes it more challenging but we have experience of working with decision-makers in ministries and we would hope that they would be willing to engage with us.
One of your members, Sportium, is operating sports betting in Colombia. Another of your member operators, 888, is one of the companies interested in operating online gambling in Buenos Aires Province, Argentina, a jurisdiction that has just enforced online regulations. What kind of advice can the association offer in these markets? Are you in contact with local authorities? If so, what is the work they are doing or they could do there?
One of the reasons we have rebranded to the International Betting Integrity Association is because our members wanted to have an international integrity body that would be aligned with their business strategies and global ambitions. In the coming months, we will be focusing on certain Latin American countries that are in the process of opening up and we would like to assist them in developing effective sports betting regulatory and integrity framework and will soon be launching a white paper on this.
According to ESSA's report for last year, Europe remains as the primary location with sporting events alerts, followed by Asia. What effects do you think the emerging and fast-growing US sports betting landscape will have in your future reports? How do you assess the creation of the new US non-profit organization Sports Wagering Integrity Monitoring Association (SWIMA)?
In 2018 almost half of our alerts came from outside of Europe (42%), as our members obtain more licenses outside of Europe, we expect this figure to increase. We have played a consultative role in getting SWIMA up and running, in fact, their alert platform is based on a version of ours. We hope to continue this cooperation in the months ahead.