United Nations Tackles Illegal Gambling The 13th United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice is currently underway in Doha, Qatar. The event is an extremely high-profile affair and tackles important issues for the developed and developing worlds such as human trafficking, human rights, and the drug trade. During the event, attended by Qatari Prime Minister Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa Al Thani, a study was revealed by Patrick Jay, a British betting expert. In his address, Jay stated he believes that the sports gambling market is worth somewhere around US$3 trillion. Much of this, a figure that Jay put at around 90%, is illegal. Out of all sports betting, Jay also estimated that nearly 65% of all bets are placed on soccer, which is one of the most widely played sports in the world. He stated that China is the heart of illegal sports gambling worldwide and that upwards of €1 billion in bets can be placed on a single soccer game. This point is driven home when considering the 2010 World Cup when, in one bust, 5,000 people from Singapore, China, Malaysia, and Thailand were arrested and US$10 million seized by authorities. It is, indeed, an international, and extremely lucrative, problem. Although Jay stated officially that he believes the sports gambling business is worth around US$3 trillion, he personally believes that the figure is significantly higher saying “I say the ‘trillion’ figure because I can just about get away with it without being laughed off stage.” He does admit that many of his colleagues believe the figure to be smaller though he states that a few sources and people he respects believe that figure to be much higher. It may, on the surface, be confusing as to why the United Nations would concentrate so much energy on illegal sports betting of all things but there is one important thing to remember. Last year, at the same conference, the World Anti-Doping Agency stated that about 25% of the world’s illegal sports betting was connected in some way to organized crime. Looking at the US$3 trillion dollar figure given by Patrick Jay, that means that approximately US$700 million of that is being controlled by organized criminal organizations. This year during the conference the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the Doha-based International Centre for Sports Security (ICSS) announced they would team up against organized crime in sports betting through increased data sharing, protection of whistleblowers, and the seizure of assets for those implicated in wrongdoing. Yury Fedotov, the Executive Director for UNODC stated that the partnership is important because he believes that match fixing is a “criminal justice issue” and “an issue of public trust.” Fedotov added to this, stating that he would work to make legislation that is specifically outlined toward organized crime groups and help bolster investigations into organized crime, political corruption, and money laundering. It is thought that the rise of match fixing is closely linked to the rise of online gambling since the accessibility of gambling to the masses has increased the viability of gambling organizations. This, in turn, increases the economic impact and interest in sports as well as sports betting. In reaction to this, Michael Hershman, a member of the ICSS Advisory Board, stated that he was “very uncomfortable” with the idea that sports teams are officially teaming up with gambling organizations, such as some Spanish soccer organizations and the MLB with DraftKings. Unfortunately, this relationship doesn’t seem to be going away as the commercialization of sports has required, and made available, a much more significant revenue stream making way for some interesting bedfellows. Iowa Changes Gambling Regulations In the United States, Iowa senators voted to change many of their gaming laws. In one of the few unanimous votes that the United States government sees, Senate File 482 passed. This allows charities to take various forms of payment for raffles and bingo. The law leaves out credit cards because, as Senator Tony Bisignano (D-Des Moines) put it, “I don’t think anyone should be gambling on credit.” The law would also change price thresholds for charity bingo games from $100 to $250 and would allow for 15 bingo games per month for the organizations. Furthermore, it would create four classes of raffles between less than $1,000 to $200,000. Of these classes, there would be no need for a license for raffles in which the prizes are valued at less than $1,000. Another gaming bill passed in the Iowa State House as well. This bill changes penalties related to cheating at casinos. It also passed unanimously and states that the penalties for cheating should be tiered rather than an automatic Class D felony (which is up to five years in prison). Specifically, the law would change so that the only time that cheating would be a Class D felony is if the bet exceeds $1,000 whereas bets between $500 and $1,000, between $200 and $500, and under $200 would be treated as various forms of misdemeanors.