The world of sports has been beset by a number of scandals lately, including allegations of insider trading in the US fantasy sports betting and match fixing in Nepal. FIFA is embroiled in a horrendous scandal that is sure to sink many big reputations and cricket has had many problems with corruption as well. Racing is a sport that has a very bad reputation for corruption and match fixing, even though there are no facts to support this notion, widespread as it is. People seem to ignore the fact that there are plenty of instances of cheating in athletics, football and other sports, while alleging that horse racing is completely rigged.
It has to be admitted that horse racing has had a chequered past, with many instances of cheating in its history. While these instances, no doubt, add colour to the sport by giving it a racy past, there is very little manipulation taking place these days. Racing is very unusual in the sporting world, in that, it takes very proactive measures to stay clean. It differs from other sports as it is proactive in dealing with corruption. Whereas other sports tend to be reactive when it comes to this issue, horse racing employs a number of measures to prevent corruption from happening instead of waiting to deal with it after the fact.
While racing maintains a very high level of integrity, it has to ensure that it does not lose its initiative in the battle of corruption because there will always be attempts to bring it in as long as there is money to be made. The International Federation of Horseracing Authorities had a conference in Paris during which this issue was discussed in great detail.
The Hong Kong Jockey Club has been very active against the creeping growth of corruption in horse racing. After all, the worldwide illegal betting industry is headquartered in Asia with more than three quarters of the world’s illegal sports wagers originating there. The turnover of the illegal sports betting business in Asia is US$500 billion, almost half of the industry worldwide.
Racing has had a long association with betting and this has indeed enriched the sport since it brought in much needed revenues at a time when advertising revenues were almost negligible. As a matter of fact, even today the revenues from advertising and television are very small in comparison to the money that comes in from betting. However, there is immense concern about the relatively small amount of money that the major sports betting operators pay back to the sport. The main reason is that these bookies operate with such slender margins that there is very little money left to spare to give to the sport.
It is clear that many things have to be done in order to keep sports as clean as possible. For instance, it is necessary to maintain a very high level of transparency at all times. It is also important to crack down on any irregularities as and when they are noted; the many incidences concerning the use of cobalt in Australian racing circles are case in point!