Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Australia addresses match-fixing in sports

AUS - Sports Ministers in Australia have taken a united stand against corruption in sports by signing an agreement to address match fixing in sports betting. 

New laws would make it compulsory for ‘sports organisations and betting companies to share information,’ and funding for sports organisations is going to be ‘contingent on sports implementing appropriate anti-match-fixing and anti-corruption practices,’ it was announced last week. 

The laws will be implemented at state-level and a new watchdog, the National Integrity of Sport Unit, is set ‘to oversee the national arrangements’, Federal Sports Minister Mark Arbib said in a statement. 

"This is an outstanding result for sport. I am pleased that all Australia’s governments are presenting a united front against the scourge of match-fixing," Senator Arbib explained. "Sport is vulnerable to organised crime, to launder money and conceal illegal activity. The most important thing for Australian sports lovers is to have confidence that our sports are played fairly and that all players are giving their best."

“[The deal] demonstrates a growing interest of the Federal Government to get involved in gambling,” concluded Bill Brown, partner at Landers & Rogers in Melbourne. And Cheng Lim, a partner at Mallesons Stephen Jaques, sees the agreement as “a positive first step in developing a national response,” which is needed since “the laws that regulate sports betting have not been able to keep apace with developments in the betting industry, particularly the growing popularity of online betting”, Lim said from his Melbourne office.

The agreement provides ‘sports with a right to veto bet types’, according to the Sports Minister's statement. Although no formal requirements are yet in place, “steps have already been taken to ban some ‘exotic’ in-play betting perceived to be prone to corruption within the sport,” said Jamie Nettleton, partner at the Sydney law firm Addisons.

Although the Interactive Gambling Act has banned most online gambling activities since 2001, online sports betting is legal in Australia, with many state-licensed betting companies in operation.

Michiel Willems, 2011. Published previously in a London based publication. Copyrights apply. Picture: Fridaymash.com

Monday, 25 July 2011

German deadlock

Anti-gambling organisations in Germany are outraged with their politicians. This might come as a surprise, since the Interstate Treaty on Gambling (ITG) largely outlaws online gambling in Germany. The anti-gambling movement is furious because it is looking beyond tomorrow. Unintentionally, their valued e-gambling ban is at stake.

The current ITG expires at the end of this year, on 31 December at midnight, and in recent weeks it has become evident that German politicians will most likely not be able to have a new Treaty approved and implemented before New Year’s Day. Theoretically, this means the market would be fully open on 1 January.

Many gambling experts wonder how German lawmakers managed to get themselves in such an incredible position. Only last April, the Heads of the German Federal States - except for Schleswig-Holstein - agreed on a new Interstate Treaty (NIT), which was subsequently sent to the European Commission (EC) for approval. The EC has three months to raise any concerns (the so-called standstill period), which means that, by 10 July latest, the EC has to make public whether it has any objections to the draft NIT and whether it is convinced the text complies with EU legislation. So far, the timing was right and the German gambling monopolies seemed to be safeguarded after 31 December.

That was before 13 June, when Germany’s Federal Prime Ministers decided to delay their final decision on the NIT until October; they indicated they will need more time to come up with a legal framework that can be supported by all 16 states. Two issues, however, make the October deadline unrealistic. Firstly, the northern State of Schleswig-Holstein has proposed its own gambling Bill, which has more in common with Atlantic City than the restrictive, monopolistic approach of the 15 other states. Under Schleswig-Holstein’s draft Bill, which was approved by the EC on 9 May, there are no limits as to the number of licences that can be granted and all forms of casino games would be allowed. It will be a huge challenge to come to some sort of agreement that can carry the support of all 16 German Federal States.

Secondly, it is a safe bet to say the EC will reject the NIT in its current form. The NIT would allow online lotteries but solely those that are organised by the state lottery providers, and online sports bets for which a maximum of seven concessions shall be issued. In the past, the EC has made it clear it does not tolerate such monopolies and the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) basically crushed the German framework in September 2010 when it said that ‘Germany’s state monopolies could not be justified under European law’. The NIT has failed to address these issues.

Approval in Brussels
But even if the other states manage to get Schleswig-Holstein on board and all of them will agree on a final text in October, the final Treaty still needs to be sent to the EC for approval. This means that another standstill period of three months will commence, so the EC’s endorsement could be given in early January at the earliest, after which the adoption and approval processes in all 16 federal parliaments still have to begin. Legislative processes that can easily take up to a year. And that is just the most positive scenario. More realistic is that the NIT will be rejected by the EC in July and Schleswig-Holstein will not give up so easily on its liberal draft Bill. Experts predict the NIT will never see the light of day, at least not in its current form, simply because it does not comply with EU legislation. It clearly needs to be amended for EC approval.

Pushing for a NIT that does not respect EU principles seems to be a refusal to acknowledge reality. It is becoming more and more likely the current ITG will expire without a new one replacing it in time, which means the market will be fully open, at least for some time. Conservative lawmakers being unable to regulate - for operators it must be a dream come true.

Michiel Willems, 2011. Published previously in a London based publication. Copyrights apply. Pictures: US State Department, state.gov.


Tuesday, 19 July 2011

New association to self-regulate Chinese payments

The Chinese Government has launched the China Payment and Settlement Association (CPSA), a payment clearing association set up to develop China’s payments industry. 

The Ministry of Civil Affairs and the People’s Bank of China (PBC) - the country’s central bank - have given the CPSA the powers to develop industry standards, and regulate the payments and settlement industry. The CPSA’s aim is to encourage industry self-regulation and the management of payment services as well as competition in the market.

The CPSA has also been given the authority to distribute licences to third parties, such as payment providers and processors, to operate on the Chinese market. No licences have been distributed as of yet, but experts expect that to happen soon.

Online payments are growing rapidly in China, but, to date, there has been little regulation of the industry. In June 2010, the PBC decided that non-financial institutions involved in payment services should obtain third party payment licences. Although 32 companies have applied so far, no third party has been granted a licence yet.

Michiel Willems, 2011. Published previously in a London based magazine. Picture:  newsroom.sebgroup.com

UK Payments Council works on new mobile account-to-account scheme

UK banks are developing a system that would allow British customers to transfer money between accounts from different banks by using their mobile phones. 

The UK Payments Council (UKPC), which represents the UK banking industry, has started “to explore how a mobile can help customers make a payment from one account to another,” said Gary Hinock, Acting Chief Executive of the UKPC.

Whether British customers will embrace this system depends on “whether or not there is demand for mobile payments,” said Samee Zafar, Director at Edgar Dunn & Co. “I believe there is, but if you look at the history of consumer products there is hardly anything that can be compared to the growth in m-devices.”

“For industry wide adoption to work effectively, we need a unified solution on both the front and the back ends,” said David Divitt, Consultant at ACI. “Most issues with the adoption of new systems arise because they are not designed with the end user as the primary focus.” 

Zafar added that “consumer acceptance is never achieved with great technology alone. It requires critical mass investments in raising awareness, marketing, consumer education, and incentives, and let us not forget merchants, who are equally important and will need to be fully on board.”

Hinock stressed that “security is a priority for us,” but  predicts that, ultimately, “the wallet might drop off its top spot in the not too distant future”.

Michiel Willems, 2011. Published previously in a London based magazine. Pciture: Lloyds TSB.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Less porn and violence for most Australians

Australian ISPs to block more than 500 sites

Two of Australia’s largest internet service providers (ISPs) have agreed to block over 500 websites, it was announced. Telstra and Optus - by far the largest ISPs in Australia - as well as smaller ISPs itExtreme and Webshield, have decided to block all websites listed on the Australian Communications and Media Authority’s ‘Refused Classification’ (RC) list of offending websites. 
Websites that are put on the RC list contain material that is banned for ‘sale, hire or public exhibition,’ because the content contains ‘matters of sex, drugs misuse or addiction, crime, cruelty, violence or revolting or abhorrent phenomena in such a way that they offend against the standard of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults’. 

The Australian Government has made a number of failed attempts to introduce internet filters in order to fight child pornography, extreme violence and illegal gambling. This latest move by Australia’s largest ISPs means that ‘most Australian internet users will have their web access censored,’ the Australian news website news.com.au wrote.

Some recent radio broadcasts for Radio 1 in the Netherlands - in Dutch. If you click on the links, my items start straight away.


Saturday, 2 July 2011

Tickets for the London 2012 Olympics

My radio 1 broadcast from last week, about the Olympic tickets uproar in the British capital - in Dutch. 
My section starts straight away. Click HERE