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Gambling Commission consults on data protection for punters

Match fixing clampdown could breach Act

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The Gambling Commission has launched a short consultation on what rules should govern the sharing of information to prevent match fixing.

New gambling legislation which comes into force in September allows betting companies to share data with sporting organisations so that match rigging can be identified and stopped.

Such sharing, though, could breach the Data Protection Act and the commission is consulting on how sharing should be tackled. Its final proposals will form part of the licences which betting operators will need in order to do business.

The commission has proposed that people who bet large sums have their betting tracked and any suspicious activity reported to the relevant sporting authorities. Its proposals involve a requirement that gambling companies report such suspicions.

It is likely that internet and telephone bets will have a significant amount of identifying and tracking information attached to them because of the systems used. The same is not necessarily true of on-site betting, where transactions are mostly cash based.

The commission has proposed that over a certain limit, bookies do track those transactions as well. "Our proposal is that we should introduce a licence condition that would require licensees to take a risk-based approach with all reasonable steps to identify customers who place bets over a significant threshold limit, either in one bet or over a number of transactions in one day," the commission's consultation document said.

There are some voluntary agreements in place between bookmakers and sporting bodies, but the commission said it was worried that such agreements were not as effective as a compulsory system would be, and considered whether to force gambling companies to make it a condition of betting that punters agree to data sharing with sports bodies.

"The commission acknowledged that any requirement that betting customers must agree to details about their betting being shared with the commission and the sport governing bodies must comply with the Data Protection Act (DPA)," said the commission's consultation document. "The commission also noted that there is considerable non-personal information that can be shared between the licensee and the sport governing bodies."

But while the DPA might cover particular cases, it may not cover a blanket demand for data sharing, the commission said. "When it comes to dealing with specific instances or allegations of criminal activity, betting operators would normally be in a position to provide the commission with information which included individual customers' personal data, without risking breaching data protection principles," said the commission.

"The position is less clear cut in relation to any condition compelling betting licensees to make it a condition of business that a customer must agree to personal information being made available to the sport governing bodies," it said.

The DPA would limit the amount and kind of information that can be shared between a bookie and a sporting body, but the commission believes that by changing its licences it can facilitate greater sharing.

"The commission considers this limit can largely be overcome through a licence condition which includes the sport governing bodies as persons to whom licensees are required to provide information," it said. "We therefore propose to amend condition 15 [of the licence] to include sport governing bodies as persons to whom licensees might be required to provide information."

The commission stopped short of demanding that gambling operators make customers agree to data sharing as a precondition to betting, but it did say that bookmakers might find life easier if they did enforce that precondition.

"The commission does not consider it appropriate to require that betting licensees make it a condition of business that a customer agrees to personal information being made available to the sport governing bodies," it said. "[But] Customer consent would offer comfort to licensees complying with the proposed amended licence condition in the event that disclosure happened when other exemptions did not apply."

"We therefore suggest that, while we will not require, through a licence condition, that betting licensees make it a condition of business that a customer must agree to personal information being made available to the sport governing bodies, there may be advantages for licensees in including such terms as a condition of their business," said the commission.

Copyright © 2007, OUT-LAW.com

OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

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