The German Federal Government has proposed changes to the Strafgesetzbuch (German Criminal Code “GCC”) to effectively combat sports betting fraud and manipulation of professional competitions. German Minister of Justice, Heiko Maas, emphasized: “The current sanctions are insufficient. Fraud and manipulation must be combatted by the means of criminal law!”
The introduction of the new draft legislation was deemed necessary as the “general” provisions against fraud (§ 263) and on taking and giving bribes in commercial practice (§ 299) are often ineffective and not covering all kinds of criminal behavior in sport. Furthermore, involved athletes can currently only be held liable for aiding (§ 27) - if at all. The draft proposes mainly two new criminal offences punishing sports betting fraud (§ 265c) and manipulation of professional competitions (§265d) with a fine or imprisonment. The new statutory offences will capture referees, athletes, coaches and equated personsfor taking advantages and everybody for giving. Hence, the legislation will have a huge impact on all kinds of sportsmen but also on the entire sports and betting industry. Last but not least, sponsors and investors need to know criminal law implications by dealing with sportsmen and their environment.
The draft legislation is part of a worldwide agenda to protect the integrity of sports and financial interests in light of recent betting and manipulation scandals. The Declaration of Berlin by the UNESCO from May 2013 and the Convention on the Manipulation of Sports Competitions by the Council of Europe from September 2014 called for measures against the tempering with sports events. Already last December new anti-doping legislation entered into force in Germany, making it i.a. illegal to produce, traffic, place into circulation or prescribe doping substances for the use in sport as well as consuming doping substances in order to gain an unfair advantage in organized sports competitions.
Considering the huge impact and relevance of sports in both society and economy a more effective means to combat sports betting fraud and the manipulation of professional competitions are long overdue. The proposed changes would make it easier to hold colluding parties criminally responsible for their actions. Thus, they might contribute to the preservation - or in some cases: recovery - of the integrity of sports and the economic interests of the involved parties.
However, the legislative procedure will take its time until the new laws will be in force.