Global cryptocurrency bookmakers are increasingly gaining traction in the illegal betting world and pose a significant threat to racing integrity, Hong Kong Jockey Club expert Tom Chignell warns.
No longer just a novelty, cryptocurrency continues to evolve and is now carving out a niche in the gambling world and it is growing rapidly.
Chignell, the Jockey Club executive director of racing integrity and betting analysis, says the dynamics in the sphere are constantly changing and his team is keeping a keen eye on things.
"We're looking at a new emerging but vastly expanding cryptocurrency market, with some websites specialising on horse racing globally, not just in Hong Kong. They are actually offering fixed-odds betting across the globe," he said, as part of his presentation at the Asian Racing Conference in Cape Town.
"They are not obliged to report suspicious betting and corruption to racing authorities. They are an emerging threat, which we are closely monitoring."
Unregulated markets open the door for race fixing and Chignell says it is up to racing authorities to monitor them as closely as the legal ones, particularly a leviathan illegal operation like Citibet.
"If you are looking to race-fix or match-fix," he said, "why would you bet with the legal market where there are healthy, established reporting channels when there is a large illegal market where these are non-existent?
"Let's be clear - the greatest betting integrity threat to racing are jockeys and trainers stopping horses from winning and betting on them to lose on the illegal market. They can do this just with a couple of clicks on Citibet, which provides huge liquidity.
"What makes Citibet and other illegal operators different to the regulated markets is there's no obligation to report on suspicious betting, cheating, jockeys betting, breaches of the rules of racing. Not having those reporting channels in place is a huge integrity threat.
"They have insufficient (Know Your Customer) policies as well - the operator at the top does not know the customer at the bottom.
"I don't think it's really in their interest anyway to actually report on cheating or jockeys betting or breaches of the rules of racing. Mainly because Citibet is an illegal betting exchange who does not stand liabilities themselves, they profit from matching people's bets.
"The more money they take, the more commission that they're earning. It's not really in their interest to help racing."
Chignell is adamant the only way for racing to stay ahead of the threat is to tackle it head-on.
"The most essential (step) is to have a robust integrity function that must include bet monitoring and betting analysis, an active intelligence function … and having the ability to investigate and disrupt where appropriate," he said.
"With the active intelligence function, it's got to have those confidential reporting channels, so those interested in keeping racing clean have the opportunity to report on corruption and suspicious activity."
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