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|Parliament to review suspect sport betting
| Owen Gibson and
An influential parliamentary select committee will
next year look into the issue of suspect betting patterns in sport as part of a
wide-ranging review of recent legislation in the area, as the Gambling
Commission insisted it was up to the job of investigating corruption.
The review, which will take
evidence from sporting bodies and bookmakers, will assume greater importance in
light of the controversy surrounding Monday's first-round match in the UK
snooker championships in Telford, when betting was suspended by leading
bookmakers after a run of suspicious bets on Stephen Maguire beating Jamie
Bookmakers warned that snooker could lose its public
appeal and sponsorship income if the game's governing body, the World
Professional Billiards and Snooker Association, was not seen to thoroughly
investigate the allegations.
After the match did indeed finish 9-3 the players said they were
aware of the heavy betting on the score but strongly denied any complicity in
fixing the match. Burnett, who missed an easy black that would have made the
score 8-4, said he felt "under the most pressure I have ever felt in my life"
during the final frame.
The WPBSA is likely to ask the BBC for footage
of the match after the corporation said it was happy to cooperate with the
authorities. That opens up the possibility of experts being asked to review the
match to analyse the players' shot choices.
The Association of British
Bookmakers, which issued an advisory note to its members on Friday warning of
unusual betting patterns, has passed on details of its investigation to the
Gambling Commission and the WPBSA.
The WPBSA said that in cases where
irregularities were flagged up by the ABB or betting exchange Betfair "the
match in question is carefully monitored by World Snooker and a thorough
assessment of the players' performance will be made".
Ian Marmion, the
trading director at Victor Chandler, which suspended betting on Friday after
spotting a run of bets on the 9-3 scoreline, said snooker's appeal would be
damaged if corruption was not rooted out. "Casual punters will be turned off,"
he said. "Are you going to have a bet on a match if you think it's fixed? There
are bigger ramifications for the sport."
Emphasising that their
comments were general and not pegged to Maguire's match with Burnett, former
world champions Stephen Hendry, Dennis Taylor and Ken Doherty all spoke out.
"Anyone throwing a result should be banned for life," said Hendry, while Taylor
added: "Anyone found guilty of match-fixing has no place in the game." Doherty
said: "I think the game is clean but the only way to make sure is to
investigate the matter."
Privately, some policymakers have voiced fears
that the Gambling Commission lacks the expertise and resources to properly
tackle corruption involving complex, often international, investigations.
Philip Davies, a former bookmaker who is now a Tory MP and sits on the
culture, media and sport committee, said: "I'm not a big fan of the Gambling
Commission. They are not quite as knowledgable as they need to be in all things
But the department of culture, media and sport yesterday
reiterated its determination to address the issue. John Whittingdale, the Tory
MP who chairs the department's select committee, said that it would conduct a
review of the 2005 Gambling Act next year.