The global pandemic affected the Sports betting operations of EL and WLA Members drastically. It pushed operators to go even more digital and to explore multi channel opportunities as well as new developments such as e-sports betting. This all while maintaining the highest level of sports integrity.
Forging a closer collaboration to safeguard sport integrity
The opening Keynote by World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) President Witold Banka, former Olympic athlete, proposed closer collaboration with national lotteries to protect sport integrity. For Mr Banka, ‘’sport is a light of hope in a cynical world, which is unique and should be protected by all’’. With 22 years of expertise in the global anti-doping mission, WADA, an international independent agency composed and funded equally by the Sports Movement and Governments of the world, highlighted how it could apply its experience further.
The pandemic’s impact on sports betting
With suspended and cancelled events and tournaments, discussions during the webinar highlighted the re-emergence of ghost and fake games, pressure on friendly games, lower leagues, and new sports. Esports and online tournaments took off during the pandemic. Limited travel opportunities brought a digitalisation of the competition manipulation and the targeted and intrusive social media approaches.
The sports betting market has evolved during the pandemic with implications for all stakeholders. Reduced governmental income might affect sport in a short future, notably grassroots sport and the cancellation of sport events, reduced sponsorship and broadcasting income will also play a part. There could be a considerable impact on membership organisations.
Online sports betting offerings were the big winner of COVID-19. However, retail oriented lotteries as many of the EL and WLA members are, resisted the pandemic seemingly better than bookmakers.
There were increased difficulties for sport in general and sports betting in particular because of match fixing. The Global Lottery Monitoring System (GLMS) reported during the webinar that sport integrity has become an important issue for betting operators and for sport. The world wide lockdowns also changed gambling habits with new player groups discovering the new digital opportunities.
Lessons learnt and looking ahead
Due to the lack of sports betting opportunities during the pandemic, operators have been offering betting opportunities on unusual competitions, which in turn has triggered an increase in financial vulnerabilities and betting corruption risks. Hence, there is the need for specific types of investigations, increased vigilant monitoring and closer cooperation with the law enforcement and sports sectors. Monitoring and Intelligence should remain high on the agenda. Contributors of Interpol, UEFA and IOC expressed these actions for upcoming international sporting events.