With a stellar career which includes periods as Chairman of the UK government’s Sports Betting Integrity Panel, CEO of the Premier League and CEO of the world famous Liverpool FC, International Football Consultant, Rick Parry, is one of the most qualified authorities on professional sport and its relationship with the betting sector. Ahead of his appearance at the inaugural Sports Betting USA (November 14 – 15, Convene, New York), Mr. Parry provides his insight on how the two industries can work together to prevent match fixing and why in his view, prohibition simply does not work.
English football (soccer) has a relationship with betting/wagering that would not be countenanced in US sport – I’m thinking of club owners such as Tony Bloom, (Brighton And Hove Albion FC) Matthew Benham (Brentford FC) and the Coates family (Stoke City FC) – what lessons do you think the United States can learn from this?
Tony Bloom, Matthew Benham and Peter Coates share one characteristic – they are genuine supporters of their clubs. And their ownership is entirely transparent. Moreover The Football Association has strict rules governing what owners are allowed to bet on. But then they differ in that the Coates family owns Bet365, one of the country’s leading bookmakers, whereas Tony Bloom and Matthew Benham are essentially punters.
It is worth noting that, unlike nearly all of its online rivals Bet365 has stayed in Stoke, paying UK taxes, being regulated by the Gambling Commission and providing very significant local employment opportunities. But this is not an issue that is unique to football. If racehorse owners were not allowed to bet the sport would collapse. And they are allowed to back their own horses. The crucial point is that they are not allowed to lay them to lose because that is what leads to fixing. You cannot corrupt to win; you can only corrupt to lose.
Would you agree that organisations such as Tony Bloom’s Star Lizard Consulting and its access to data can play a major role in identifying suspicious betting activities and actually make the sport cleaner?
Organisations such as Star Lizard Consulting can and do identify irregular betting patterns and they can certainly play a valuable role in reporting them to the authorities. Where this has value is in the lightly regulated offshore markets where it can be difficult to obtain information from bookmakers. The crucial point is that within Great Britain, bookmakers are obliged to notify the Gambling Commission and the sports of any betting activity which may give rise to a breach of the Gambling Act or sports’ rules. This goes to the level of individual transactions and is much more powerful than relying on third parties to observe movement in the odds.
To quote Adam Silver, do you think it’s time for sports betting to be “…brought out of the underground and into the sunlight where it can be appropriately monitored and regulated?”
My interest is in the integrity of sport and preventing match fixing. In that context I agree completely that sports betting should be legalised and regulated.
How would you categorise US sports objections to betting? Are they moral arguments, arguments driven by protectionism, paranoia or ignorance?
There may be a host of reasons to object to sports betting but the fact is that prohibition does not work.
There is ample evidence that Americans want to bet on sport and they do. By legalising and regulating it is possible to put in place measures that protect the integrity of sport, consumers and the vulnerable. In Great Britain our match fixing concerns come not from the well regulated European markets but from the lightly regulated Asian markets. From a match fixing point of view you have the worst of all worlds in the U.S. – a substantial, highly liquid, unregulated market in your own backyard.
Do you think the prevalence of betting sponsors in British football represents overkill and raises moral issues for both gaming regulators and governing bodies?
I think the one area that we have failed to address adequately in Great Britain is that of sponsorship. Almost half of the Premier League clubs’ principal sponsors are bookmakers and most of them are from the lightly regulated Asian markets. In preventing match fixing one of the main aims is to restrict liquidity in these markets rather than to stimulate it.
How valuable are events such as Sports Betting USA (SBUSA) in helping to encourage sensible debate and facilitate change?
There is a major education process to be gone through and events like SBUSA are an ideal forum to both educate and stimulate debate.
Sports Betting USA is the first event dedicated exclusively to the development of sports betting in the USA. Produced by the team at Clarion Gaming, Sports Betting USA will explore the legislative path to the repeal of PASPA; demystify misconceptions around sports integrity; outline data monetization strategies, fan engagement opportunities; new revenue streams for rights holders and present routes to a regulated market for operators wishing to add this vertical to their offer.
For more information and to register, visit: sportsbettingusaconference.com