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Eddie Goldman is the host and producer of the No Holds Barred international podcast and the publisher of the No Holds Barred blog.

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Sunday, September 16, 2018

No Holds Barred: Declan Hill on Sports Gambling and the Fight for Sports Integrity in the U.S. 


On this edition of No Holds Barred, host Eddie Goldman once again spoke with investigative journalist, academic, consultant, and expert on match-fixing and corruption in international sports, Declan Hill.

He has just started a new teaching position as an associate professor in the Investigations Department at the Henry C. Lee College of Criminal Justice and Forensic Sciences at the University of New Haven in New Haven, Connecticut. This unique position, which he calls a "professor of investigations", has him teaching a graduate course focusing on corruption in sport and what the recent legalization of sports gambling in the U.S. means for American society.

We spoke with him by phone Wednesday.

"This is an epic-changing moment in American society," he said. "It's comparable with the repeal of Prohibition, because sports gambling has effectively been illegal for over a century. And it's been driven by the trauma of the Chicago White Sox fixing the World Series of baseball in 1919. That Shoeless Joe Jackson trauma 99 years ago has cast a pall over American sports leagues since that time.

"And only this year, only in 2018, on May 14th, did finally the U.S. judicial system say, 'Hey, it's OK for people to gamble on sports.'

"So this is a massively complex question. It's massively complicated, with good stuff on both sides of the issue, bad stuff on both sides of the issue. All kinds of societal stuff, all kinds of religious stuff, all kinds of social stuff."

The debate in the U.S. over the next steps, however, have been dominated by two types of groups which only are serving their own interests, he noted. First are those with their own commercial agendas, including the gambling casinos and the relatively new group of sports gambling monitoring companies. They are trying to ensure a major stake in the legal sports gambling market in the U.S., which it is estimated will grow to hundreds of billions of dollars.

The second group, he said, are those with a "geopolitical agenda". Much of agenda in the U.S. is being pushed by the Middle Eastern monarchy of Qatar -- the same country whose government was accused of massive bribery to get the hosting rights for the FIFA World Cup in 2022. This monarchy, he said, has founded an organization "purportedly" fighting for sports integrity and which is in the forefront of the discussion on sports gambling in U.S. They also, doing what they are paid to do, seek to deflect discussion away from Qatar's role in sports corruption, he said.

While little useful debate is going on about the effects of sports gambling, it is expected that massive amounts of gambling will take place not only on the largest sports in the U.S., but, judging from how gamblers have operated around the world, on the minor leagues of professional sports as well as college and even high school sports.

"Fixing turns sport into theater," he said, and we will see more of it on all levels of sport in America.

In order to address these dangers, he made a proposal.

"It is absolutely clear what American sports needs," he said.

"It needs an Environmental Protection Agency. It needs a meat-packing inspector agency. A similar independent agency needs to be set up at a federal level to protect the integrity of sport.

"And it needs to be funded by a one percent tax on legal gambling. So every sports bet that takes place in the United States, a very small section of it, one percent, goes to setting up that agency, funding it, staffing it with good people."

We discussed the need for independent intelligent discussion on these issues, problems like sports gambling addiction and what happens when illegal bookmakers try to go legal, how sports gambling may kill off some sports, the opposition to forming an independent sports integrity agency, and much, much more.

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