The Crimes (Match-fixing) Amendment Bill, introduced this week, clarifies that match-fixing to influence a betting outcome - rather than for tactical sporting reasons - is a crime in New Zealand.
Responsibility for addressing less serious types of match-fixing will lie primarily with national sports organisations which, under a new policy developed by Sport New Zealand, are expected to implement rules to address the issue.
The Bill would amend the Crimes Act 1961 to bring serious match-fixing expressly within the existing offence of ‘obtaining by deception or causing loss by deception’ – punishment for which can include a term of up to seven years imprisonment.
Certain match-fixing activity may already be caught by a range of other offences in both the Crimes Act and Secret Commissions Act so one effect of the Bill is to clarify the legal position.
The Explanatory Note on the Bill explains that the proposed changes, which are planned to come into force on 15 December 2014, will help to address risks presented by our upcoming hosting of the Cricket World Cup and the FIFA Under 20 (football) World Cup.
If the Bill is implemented in its current form, New Zealand authorities could not prosecute for match-fixing undertaken wholly outside of New Zealand.
How effective will the change be?
The change is an obvious one, given that the Australian Crime Commission has identified that organised crime (including sports betting) is moving into Australasia.
It seems highly unlikely that New Zealand authorities will be able to identify and prosecute off-shore crime syndicates so the new law is likely to catch only the sportspeople involved. But, without the cooperation of the players, the syndicates will be considerably weakened.
The Sport New Zealand policy indicates the legal framework will be supplemented by a more collaborative approach between industry and government to addressing match-fixing.
More anti-bribery and corruption law changes on the horizon
The Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Legislation Bill is expected to be introduced to Parliament later this year. Its purpose is to strengthen New Zealand’s anti-bribery and corruption laws generally, and it should reflect the recommendations for legislative change contained in the OECD’s rather damming report on New Zealand’s implementation of the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention.