Racing: Punters in the dark over Sporting Options cash

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The Independent Online

The fate of punters' cash was unknown last night after a betting exchange, Sporting Options, went into administration.

The fate of punters' cash was unknown last night after a betting exchange, Sporting Options, went into administration.

The firm was launched to coincide with the World Cup in 2002. It is believed to have had about 15,000 customers. More than 30 people had been employed by the company, mainly at its Burgess Hill, West Sussex, head office.

Yesterday afternoon the Sporting Options website was blank, except for a note saying the site was undergoing "essential maintenance". Callers to a help-line were told in a brief recorded message that the company had gone into administration.

The betting exchange phenomenon, in which internet punters bet against each other, has mushroomed in the last few years. Before backing or laying a bet on a horse or football team, punters deposit money with a credit or debit card. Backers pay commission on winning bets. Customers' money is held in individual accounts.

The industry is monopolised by Betfair, holding more than 90 per cent of the market. Sporting Options, which had advertised extensively to gain market share, had claimed to be the second biggest exchange.

A statement from the administrators said: "All unsettled markets have now been voided by the company. MCR [the administrators] will update customers on progress as soon as possible."

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