Lottery umbrella organisations, the European Lotteries (EL) and the World Lottery Association (WLA), recently came together to conduct a webinar about the impact of the pandemic on sports betting.
The sports betting operations of both EL and WLA members were drastically affected by the pandemic, as it pushed operators more towards e digital and the exploration of multi-channel opportunities as well as new developments such as e-sports betting, all while maintaining the highest level of sports integrity.
Delivering the keynote address, World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) President Witold Banka opened the webinar with proposals for a closer collaboration with national lotteries to protect sports integrity. He stated: “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, the international independent agency, composed and funded equally by the Sports Movement and Governments of the world, highlighted how it could apply its experience further.
With suspended and cancelled events and tournaments, discussions during the webinar shone a light on 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 competition manipulation and targeted and intrusive social media approaches.
The webinar noted that the sports betting market has evolved during the pandemic with implications for all stakeholders. Reduced government income might affect sport in the short term, notably grassroots sport and the cancellation of sport events, while reduced sponsorship and broadcasting income will also play a part. It also found that there could be a considerable impact on membership organisations.
Despite online sports betting offerings being the big winner of COVID-19, retail oriented lotteries as many of the EL and WLA members are, resisted the pandemic seemingly better than bookmakers.
Increased difficulties for sport in general and sports betting in particular due to match-fixing were also touched upon during the webinar. The Global Lottery Monitoring System (GLMS) reported that sport integrity has become an important issue for operators and for sport. Worldwide lockdowns also changed gambling habits with new player groups discovering new digital opportunities.
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.
The webinar concluded that consequently, 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.