Jari Vähänen: The important work of GLMS

In his latest column for Lottery Daily, Jari Vähänen of Finnish Gambling Consultants explains the importance of lotteries utilising external sources and experts
Image: Jari Vähänen

Many lotteries have expanded their product range with sports games. That has made it possible to grow the business, but at the same time it has brought with it new challenges. Global sports betting is a massive business with side effects. Betting often involves many times larger amounts of money than the sport. That has caused the temptation to influence the outcome of matches by criminal means. The gambling industry and sport must work together to combat such developments. For lotteries, the GLMS organization has a big responsibility in this fight.

GLMS, the Global Lottery Monitoring System, is a monitoring system on sports betting established by lotteries. The purpose of GLMS is to prevent, detect and analyze irregular and suspicious betting activities. GLMS tries to safeguard sport integrity and support the culture of integrity and social responsibility. It is important work, but they can’t do that alone. Cooperation between sports organizations, the whole gambling industry, and regulators and police is needed.

The daily work that is done in GLMS is the monitoring of sports betting. In practice, the work is done in the lottery companies around the world involved in the network. Sports betting units send betting information to GLMS hubs, of which there are currently three: in Asia (Hong Kong), Europe (Denmark), and North America (Canada). The location of hubs around the world ensures that monitoring can be done virtually around the clock. GLMS provides information not only to its member lotteries but also to sports organizations about exceptional betting behaviour.

Suspicious betting behaviour occurs in a total of thousands, if not tens of thousands of sporting events each year. That is a massive problem for sport and the gambling business. Sports experts have stated that match-fixing is as big a problem for sports as doping. We must do everything we can to prevent this problem. That is very important not only for direct business but also for the reputation of our industry.

Gambling operators, including lotteries, are offering an increasing number of betting objects in their sports betting. There may be thousands of different matches on offer. It is possible to place dozens or even hundreds of different bets on single matches. In addition, live betting during the matches has brought even smaller issues to the bets, which have no significance for the outcome of the whole match. Such betting objects further increase the possibility of match-fixing and make the detection of criminal behaviour even more challenging. Another big problem is that a large proportion of the world’s betting operators are in no way involved in monitoring gambling activity. For example, the vast “grey market” in Asia is not involved in international cooperation in this region.

Unfortunately, with expanded betting offerings, match-fixing has spread to more and more sports. Based on GLMS, suspicious betting activity was observed earlier this year in at least the following sports: football, basketball, esports, ice hockey, tennis, volleyball, American football, darts, baseball, and handball. Most cases, of course, are linked to football, which is by far the most significant betting sport worldwide. Attention is also paid to the ascending sport, esports, which has been surprisingly often linked with irregular betting behaviour.

GLMS not only monitors sports betting and reports suspicious behaviour. In addition to this vital monitoring role, it collaborates extensively with sports organizations. In fact, the activities of lotteries in sports integrity began a long time ago through a co-operation project with the European Football Association (UEFA). I was honoured to be involved in collaborative discussions with the football world. 

Today, in addition to UEFA, significant GLMS partners include, eg, FIFA and IOC. There is also co-operation with several other sports, which is also visible on a practical level in several countries. Lotteries are organizing education sessions for sports federations and athletes, directly and through GLMS, to explain the dangers and practices of manipulating sports. That awareness-raising work is important in preventing future problems and reducing current ones. Much of the misbehaviour is still related to athletes ’lack of knowledge.

In addition to gambling companies and sports organizations, the Council of Europe and several of its member states, as well as Interpol, are also involved in the fight for the integrity of sport. In 2014, the Council of Europe concluded the Macolin Convention, under which individual countries should set up national platforms in which the various parties work together against match-fixing. National lotteries must be involved in such cooperation. Unfortunately, the level of lottery participation varies much from country to country. In some countries, such as my own country, Finland, the lottery is an official member of the National Platform, but in some other countries, the lottery has no role at all.

However, the match-fixing risk associated with sports betting does not mean that lotteries should not offer sports games to their customers. Other gambling companies offer these games anyway, and in many cases lotteries are able to do so more responsibly, if they want, than many other companies. In many countries, lotteries already have close relations with the authorities and sports organizations, so there is a good basis for co-operation to work. In addition to this, the joint lottery organization GLMS has long done such a great job that there is a lot of know-how available. It is now crucial to get all the lotteries running sports games involved in GLMS. I cannot understand why all lotteries are currently not involved in this critical work for the integrity of sport.

Jari Vähänen

Jari has enjoyed a long and successful career in the gambling sector, having cut his teeth in the horse racing and betting business. He has spent the biggest part of that time with Veikkaus, the Finnish national lottery and gambling operator, where he was responsible for horse and sports betting business. While there he started digital sale channels, introduced the first customer-based strategy and took care of international relationships and businesses. Having resigned from the lottery in spring 2020, he established The Finnish Gambling Consultants Ltd and is now helping lotteries and other gambling operators and suppliers to further develop their businesses.