Major sporting events around the world are known for increased prostitution surrounding the event, including human trafficking. Some victim advocate groups debate whether human trafficking truly increases during these events, or if more arrests are made as a result of heightened law enforcement involvement and sting initiatives. The fact remains that there is an uptick in arrests and victim rescues, many of whom are children, during these large events.
One such event drawing the attention of human traffickers is the international Formula One (F1) race, with the United States Grand Prix held annually at the Circuit of the Americas (COTA) track in Austin, TX. The track made a costly blunder for the 2018 race, and the state of Texas rejected a request for state funding because COTA did not submit a human trafficking prevention plan by the required deadline - a $25 million mistake.
Texas law prohibits state funding from the Major Events Reimbursement Program if the event coordinators do not submit a human trafficking prevention plan 30 days prior to the event. While COTA did fulfill the requirement of filing a plan, it was due September 19, 2018, and submitted on October 3. The state had preliminarily approved the request for reimbursement from the program, but it was rescinded by the Texas governor’s office following this discovery based on “the plain language of that statute.”
COTA has received similar payments since the first F1 race in 2012. Bernie Ecclestone, F1’s chief executive, told the Austin American-Statesman that a reduction in that payment of this size will put the future of the United States Grand Prix at risk as these funds are critical to the event’s success.
Taking human trafficking and prevention requirements seriously is trending in the right direction. Public and private recognition of human trafficking red flags is growing across the country, with law enforcement and victim advocacy groups leading the way. Thanks to states imposing consequences such as the F1 denial, major sporting events will improve the focus on their responsibilities of fighting this horrific crime.