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Illegal bets add up to 1.7 trillion dollars each year: new UN report  

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A crowd watching a football game inside Wembley Stadium in England. (September 2016)

Up to $1.7 trillion is estimated to be wagered on illicit betting markets each year, according to a new report released on Thursday by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).  

The publication, the first-ever Global Report on Corruption in Sport, asks for an urgent, unified and international response to fight malpractice and fraud across the sector.  

According to the UN Agency, it reveals a “staggering scale, manifestation, and complexity of corruption and organized crime in sport at the global, regional, and national levels.” 

‘Substantial increase’ 

Developed in partnership with nearly 200 experts from across government, sports’ organizations, the private sector, and academia, the report is the most in-depth review of its type to date.  

Illegal bets add up to 1.7 trillion dollars each year: new UN report  

The report also analyzes the role of illegal betting and competition manipulation, by Unsplash/Anastasiia Chepinska

It notes that corruption in sports is not a new phenomenon, since fraudulent activities have existed since the ancient Olympic Games, but points to a “substantial increase” in the past two decades. 

Globalization, a huge influx of money, the rapid growth of legal and illegal sports betting, and technological advances, are making it increasingly attractive to criminal networks seeking to exploit sport for profit, it says.   

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The report also analyzes the role of illegal betting, competition manipulation, abuse, the susceptibility of major sporting events to fraudsters, and the involvement of organized crime, among others. 

Finally, it highlights initiatives that can help tackle the problem, issues related to detecting and reporting wrongdoing, and how existing legal frameworks can be used to address the problem.  

Concrete policies  

The report includes a playbook with concrete policy considerations, for both governments and sports organizations. 

It asks for legal, policy and institutional frameworks to be strengthened, comprehensive anti-corruption policies to be implemented, and more cooperation and exchange of information among sport organizations, crime prevention and criminal justice authorities and policymakers 

The report is launched ahead of next week’s biennial UN anti-corruption gathering, the Conference of the States Parties to the United Nations Convention against Corruption, being held in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt from 13 to 17 December.  

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