Experts to examine corrupt betting practices

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The scale of betting corruption, the phenomenon which this week hit Wimbledon, will be examined in a six-month study by independent experts, Gerry Sutcliffe, the sports minister, announced on Wednesday.

The panel will examine suspicious betting patterns, rules, relations between betting operators and sports organisers and the education of sportspeople.

Sports bodies are increasingly concerned about the risks from online betting, which has increased the amount staked, created new forms of betting and markets such as in-running betting, whereby wagers are placed during an event.

Suspect betting patterns have prompted horseracing and tennis to set up integrity units.

Betfair, the betting exchange company, reported a flood of bets on a first-round match at Wimbledon on Tuesday, the latest in a series of suspected irregularities involving tennis matches.

Mr Sutcliffe has kept a close watch on bookmakers and betting operators and the millions they make from gambling in the UK since he took office two years ago.

He put pressure on them to settle a long-running dispute with the racing industry over the levy they pay to racing, and threatened them with a statutory levy to pay for research into problem gambling.

The sports minister now wants other sports to get a “fair return” from money bet on their events, and said he was “not closing the door” on a statutory levy on operators, although a voluntary levy was preferred.

Mr Sutcliffe said he accepted that bookmakers had to stay competitive, but sport and betting needed each other.

“We have been successful [with bookmakers] on some issues,” he said.

Ladbrokes said there were very few real cases of betting corruption. “Just as it would be wrong to tax Boots for drug testing, it would be wrong to tax bookmakers for policing sport,” the bookmaker said.

The panel will be chaired by Rick Parry, former chief executive of Liverpool FC, and include representatives from the Football Association and the British Horse­racing Authority, as well as bookmakers Ladbrokes, William Hill, Betfair and the Tote, and the police and the Gambling Commission.

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