PARIS (Reuters) - Criminals are using betting on sports events to launder $140 billion each year, a report said on Thursday, exposing a lack of effective regulation that allows match-fixing to spread.
Soccer and cricket were identified as the sports most threatened by criminals seeking to rig the gambling market but tennis, basketball, motor racing and badminton were also affected, according to the report, which is based on a two-year research.
"The rapid evolution of the global sports betting market has seen an increased risk of infiltration by organised crime and money laundering," said Chris Eaton of the Qatar-based International Centre for Sport Security (ICSS).
The report, compiled by the ICSS think-tank and the Sorbonne university in Paris, said that 80 percent of global sports betting was being carried out on illegal markets, placing it beyond the reach of regulators and investigators.
A number of soccer leagues have been hit by match-fixing scandals in recent years and three Pakistani cricketers were jailed for a plot to deliberately bowl no balls during a test match against England at Lord's in 2010.
According to the report, 53 per cent of the illegal betting comes from Asia, while 49 per cent of the legal market is based in Europe.
Technology and live television have transformed the sports betting market in recent years, allowing viewers to bet on a wider range of events and gamble in real time as a match progresses.
Several territories were identified as "sports betting havens", with England topping the list with 114 online betting licences granted, ahead of Malta (86).
"It's too important to be left to the bite of compromise," said Eaton.
Eaton, a former head of security at FIFA, said the changes have made suspect betting patterns harder to spot.
"The problem is getting worse," Mohammed Hanzab, president of the ICSS, said in his opening speech at the Sorbonne on Thursday.
"If we do nothing sport will become to be seen as an arena of corruption."
Among solutions, the report recommended a sports betting tax to finance investigations into match-fixing and closer cooperation between betting companies and sporting bodies.
(Reporting by Julien Pretot and Keith Weir, Editing by Ed Osmond/Amlan Chakraborty)