Gambling: Sport

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 2:59 pm on 11 October 2007.

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Photo of Baroness Golding Baroness Golding Labour 2:59, 11 October 2007

My Lords, I apologise for my husky voice, but with any luck it will last six minutes. I congratulate my noble friend for instigating this very important short debate. I have first of all to declare a number of interests. I am treasurer of the All-Party Racing and Bloodstock Group, treasurer of the All-Party Greyhound Group, chairman of the All-Party Betting and Gaming Group—and I am an administrative steward and director of the British Boxing Board of Control, to which I intend to limit my remarks.

One of the many positive things that came out of the Government's decision to present a new Gambling Bill was the obvious need for sports to work together to prevent fraud and to protect gamblers and the good name of sport. Having spent very many long hours on the pre-legislative scrutiny of the draft Bill, noble Lords, together with MPs, decided to set up the inquiry mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, and so very ably chaired by him.

One of the sporting bodies that gave evidence was boxing. Because it is perceived as a dangerous sport, it is one of the most tightly controlled, with inspectors and representatives at every level and a reporting system in place. The British Boxing Board of Control is the regulatory and licensing authority for professional boxing and as such its members are not allowed to have any financial interest in boxing. Further, our rules do not allow professional boxing to take place in a venue where there are betting facilities. So although betting companies sponsor boxing, the board has no relationship with bookmakers at all. But that is not to say that people involved with boxing are not allowed to bet; they are. Indeed, I myself am known to have a few bets—in fact, quite often—but I have never as yet bet on a boxing match and most of my friends with whom I discuss boxing do not either.

At the moment gambling is not a big issue for boxing, but that does not mean that it can be ignored. With the growth of exchanges and spread betting and more and more venues having agreements with bookmakers, boxing, like other sports, needs to look again. New regulations need to be put in place. We would not, for example, want to see betting facilities in the auditorium or betting after the boxers leave their dressing rooms. We also wish to consider who of those taking part would not be allowed to place bets and how far the board would be involved with the bookmakers. We have been fortunate in having the advice of Tom Kelly, the chief executive of the Association of British Bookmakers, because much of this is new ground for all of us.

The protection of the boxing board's good name is very important to us. Following our efforts we were pleased to be recognised by the Government and the Gambling Commission and registered on the list of sports governing bodies in the Gambling Act. For boxing this is an important time. We intend to move forward and in doing so will work closely with the Gambling Commission and the bookmakers to protect the integrity of all sports. In saying that I gently remind the Gambling Commission that those who have spent years running both sports and gambling know how they need to be run. The Gambling Commission should listen to the regulatory bodies and not spread its wings too wide.