IOC steps up fight against illegal betting

Governments, law enforcement agencies and betting operators agreed Thursday to work more closely together to fight illegal betting and corruption in sports.

The International Olympic Committee held a summit meeting of sports federation leaders and representatives of the United Nations, European Union and the international police agency Interpol.

"There was a consensus around the table that sporting fraud should be a criminal offense," IOC director general Christophe De Kepper told The Associated Press. "A lot needs to be done on the government side and the cooperation between police and justice around the world. There is a sense of urgency."

One year after the IOC opened talks to coordinate anti-corruption efforts, delegates reviewed progress reports from three working groups and agreed to create a panel to monitor progress worldwide.

Still, six months before the London Olympics, sports bodies were urged to advise athletes and their entourages how to protect themselves from approaches by an illegal gambling industry believed to be worth tens of billions of dollars annually.

"International federations were instructed to go ahead and produce relevant guidelines," British Sports Minister Hugh Robertson told the AP. "That is going to happen a lot more quickly than creating legislation."

The IOC cited Britain, France and Australia as models for enacting laws that empowered investigations and prosecutions of match-fixing and corrupt gambling.

"We hope that this example will be imposed upon others, and sooner or later they will be encouraged and forced to adopt similar rules," De Kepper said.

Robertson told delegates how English law allowed authorities to convict and jail three Pakistan cricketers last year in a fixing scandal.

"There was not a single person in the room who was not aware of the case," Robertson said. "If it can happen at a test match at Lord's (cricket ground), it can happen at the Olympic Games."

De Kepper said Olympic officials are "pragmatic" about how much could be achieved and how quickly. The current project has not directly involved most parts of Southeast Asia and Eastern Europe, where illegal gambling is largely conducted.

The Olympic body will continue to lead efforts despite some calls to create an independent global body similar to the World Anti-Doping Agency.

"All are agreeing that increased cooperation is needed and that the IOC coordinating the efforts is the right way to move on with this issue," De Kepper said.

Talks on how legal betting operators will help finance the initiative are also scheduled for future meetings.

Meanwhile, betting firms were urged to share their intelligence in monitoring markets, including with Interpol and organizers of sports events.

"Betting operators also have their obligations to detect the frauds and to transmit this information to prosecutors," De Kepper said.

The IOC expects to hold a third annual summit in early 2013.