Sports woes bad for betting

NICHOLAS BOYACK
Last updated 09:45 12/02/2013

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The TAB is concerned about revelations that drug use and match fixing is widespread in Australian sport.

Petone-based head bookmaker Mark Stafford says that having sport tainted by drugs, criminal gangs and match fixing is not good for betting businesses.

He agrees that coming on top of the Lance Armstrong affair there is a danger that sports fans will become disillusioned and less willing to bet.

Speaking to the Hutt News on the day of the announcement by the Australian Crime Commission, he said he would be taking a close look at the documentation and the implications for New Zealand sport.

Although a number of New Zealand teams play in the competitions under suspicion, he does not believe any have been involved in match fixing.

As for drugs, he says the rules in New Zealand are strict and he doubts there is a problem here.

News of the problems in Aussie sport came shortly after allegations that hundreds of football matches have been fixed by criminals operating from Singapore.

Mr Stafford says the TAB monitors all bets that come in and any irregular betting patterns are quickly identified.

"It is not a hard thing to detect."

In New Zealand, most bets are from mum and dad punters putting small amounts on their favourite team.

Although the term "match fixing" has been widely used, in many cases the dodgy betting is actually on a particular aspect of a game. In cricket, for instance, that could be when a no-ball is bowled or if a particular batsman gets more than 30.

Those aspects of the game can be manipulated by corrupt officials or players and that is what dodgy bookmakers target, he says.

The scale of illegal betting in Asia is huge and he says those attempting to fix or manipulate an aspect of a game are mostly in Asia.

One of the competitions that the TAB takes bets on is the Australian Twenty20 competition, the Big Bash League. After the Crime Commission announcement, Australian cricket authorities said it was taking a look at the integrity of that competition.

Mt Stafford says it is the sort of event that can be manipulated. Although he has heard talk that there has been some unusual occurrences in games, he is not aware of any actual attempts at manipulation.

Sports commentator Ken Laban says reports of widespread drug taking must concern New Zealand sport. Our professional rugby, league, basketball, netball and soccer teams all play in Australian competitions.

The reality is that with contact sports, taking supplements and other drugs to condition athletes is widespread.

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In professional sport, athletes are also under pressure to return from injury as quickly as possible, Mr Laban says.

"If you are injured for four weeks that could cost you $20,000; that is a lot of breakfasts for your family."

The involvement of organised crime in Aussie sport has surprised many but Mr Laban repeats that is just reality. Sports clubs attract attention if they purchase steroids so they have to rely on "middlemen" and that opens the door to criminals.

He believes New Zealand should hold its own inquiry to establish if we have similar problems to Australia's.

- Hutt News

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