Chris Watts: Horse Racing’s biggest hurdle in tackling corruption

Speaking at the ESSA Sports Betting Integrity Conference at Lord’s cricket ground yesterday, Chris Watts head of integrity assurance at the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) outlined what he identified as the ‘biggest threat’ to eradicating corruption from the sport.

The former anti-corruption manager for the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) was speaking on the opening panel at the event, analysing what are the best practice models to tackle match-fixing and sporting corruption. He was particularly wary of betting industries in foreign markets that don’t fall under the purview of UK regulators.

Watts said: “One of the biggest threats which I can see coming down the track in the next ten years, is betting operators located offshore, who are offering markets on sporting events within our jurisdiction. They’re either not licensed or are only partially licensed, they’re not regulated or are only lightly regulated, so they’re not licensed or regulated to the extent that we are used to within the UK under the Gambling Commission.

“It makes it hugely problematic for us to have vision into those markets, to see what’s going on, and understand the threat and the risk to UK sport, that’s something that we know is happening with horse racing, so how do we get that visibility if we can’t get see the betting patterns how do we understand what’s going on? And how do we understand what the risk is, in order to take some action against it?”

Watts, who joined the ECB after spending thirty years with the Metropolitan Police Service, then went onto point out how the BHA is ‘addressing and tackling’ the issue. Watts added: “One way we can address and tackle it is through education. In horse racing we have started an education programme; it’s in the early stages and it’s going to be a huge challenge to deliver an education awareness programme across the whole of horse racing.

“We are talking here about upwards of around 600 licensed jockeys, around about 600 trainers and the same number of racing yards, this is going to be a huge project, it’s something that we’ve just started on now and we’re planning and scheduling it with a view to delivering it over a two year programme.”

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