True fans of sports want to watch honest and fair competition. At Kindred, we are no different. Yet the integrity of our industry is often called into question when high-profile episodes of match-fixing are exposed. We’ve made it our mission to be the most trusted operator, but are we doing enough to help preserve true integrity in sports?
In late 2017, Ethisport completed a sports integrity audit of Kindred. Ethisport is the first audit company to specialise in sports integrity and ethics. They audit sports organisations, gambling operators, public authorities and media outlets. Kindred scored 70/100, and when we consider that the very best sporting organisations in the world score 80/100, we can be justifiably proud. Ethisport themselves called ‘top of the pile’ of gambling operators.
To find out if we’re doing enough to protect the integrity of sports, we spoke with Kindred’s Sports Betting Integrity Officer, Eric Konings, and Ethisport’s co-founder, Christian Kalb at ICE.
How do you define sports’ integrity?
Christian: Firstly, it’s important to define ‘sports’. Sports is a physical exercise with rules, competition and it’s organised by a federation. When we talk about sports’ integrity, we focus on four specific areas: rules, fair competition, the economic value and the image value of sports. We need to protect these four areas from corruption, manipulation and doping.
Eric: Kindred is part of the sports entertainment chain, along with sports federations, media and others, and the unpredictable nature of sports is key in this. It should be protected and safeguarded. If it isn’t, it puts the attractiveness and the future of this entertainment chain in jeopardy. Sports integrity becomes very relevant for us if the criminals and athletes they work with use our platforms to obtain a financial advantage with their fraudulent activity.
Can you talk us through the audit process at Ethisport, and tell us what makes it robust?
Christian: When we conduct an audit, there are three steps. Firstly, we get to know the company and the environment (within which they operate). Secondly, we conduct a series of interviews with people from various levels within the company. In Kindred’s case, we interviewed 16 people. We are specifically looking at governance, risk prevention and integrity awareness. Finally, we ask additional questions to dive a little deeper, then we set up an action plan. It’s very important to follow the same methodology for all operators.
What top level outcomes did the audit highlight?
Christian: Kindred is doing well with regards to sports integrity – one of the most ambitious operators we’ve seen so far. Employee awareness around sports integrity is very good. This is not always the case with gambling operators. Employees are also in favour of acting (when they see something wrong), which is not always easy within competitive commercial environments. At Kindred, we realised that there was something very different and unique.
This is very positive. What were the key learning points for Kindred?
Eric: Yes, the outcome was positive, as we did very well across the whole spectrum. I found it very encouraging that Ethisport has independently found that we take sports integrity seriously. Trust, integrity and player safety is a key pillar of our corporate strategy. However, the learning points are more valuable to us than the positive ones, and there are several. There’s room for improvement around internal awareness and internal processes. We should continue to seek cooperation, for instance by being part of national platforms, as cooperation is key in the fight against match-fixing. Also, we will continue to push for local regulation of remote gaming in EU member states as this is the primary safeguard against this phenomenon.
In your opinion, what should Kindred focus on to better protect sports integrity?
Christian: There are two areas. Firstly, overcome the controversial issue of licensed vs. unlicensed markets. Avoid unlicensed markets where illegal betting and criminal activity takes place. Secondly, do more work with the regulators around the betting supply. For example, within the UK, is it good to offer markets for tennis futures?
How do we shape up against the rest of our industry, and do you think there is a strong enough focus on sports integrity?
Christian: Sports integrity is a discussion within wealthy countries. We are not having as many of these conversations in South America, Africa or Asia. Kindred is doing well. A rating of 70 is well above the average of 45-50. But you can’t compare companies based in the UK or Sweden with a company in Central Africa.
How do these findings support Kindred’s corporate strategy?
Eric: Over the decade, we have seen an increasing amount of EU Member States adopting local regulation for remote gaming. We are happy with this development, as local regulation is the first preventive measure against match-fixing. It enables cooperation between all stakeholders, leads to transparency, and creates a legal basis for the exchange of information on suspicious betting activity with the authorities. We encourage EU member states to include dedicated Sports Betting Integrity (SBI) related measures in the legislation, such as the obligation to report suspicious betting activity and the obligation to assign a dedicated Sports Betting Integrity Officer that is responsible for ensuring the operator is compliant with license conditions in this field.
Is there a commercial advantage to be gained here?
Eric: Ultimately, we want our customers to have a rewarding journey through digital entertainment, offering the best products in a safe, secure and sustainable environment. If the integrity of our product is questioned, customers might shy away. This would be detrimental to us, as a stock-listed company building on trust.
What advice would you give to Kindred as we prepare for more regulation in local markets?
Christian: Regulators didn’t exist 10 years ago and have to get some enhanced expertise on betting risks, including sports integrity. Moreover, your customers were completely different. We are in a new environment, so anticipate what might happen and look at other industries, like finance. Compliance will be the key.
What’s next for Kindred in sports integrity? How will we raise the bar?
Eric: Although it’s flattering to get a score of 70/100, there’s still 30 to be gained. There’s no room for complacency. We have taken the recommendations from the audit and embedded them into the action plan for 2018. By the end of this year, we want to see progress in the learning points identified by Ethisport. There is no time to sit back and relax. The integrity of our product must be guaranteed, and this requires effort and dedication. If anything, this audit gives us the motivation to step up and do more.