Pattern of strange bets would be spotted, say bookmakers

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The Independent Online
ANYONE WHO tampers with the floodlights at a British football ground stands little or no chance of making a profit from the high street bookmakers.

The major bookies - Ladbrokes, William Hill and Coral - declare a match void for betting purposes, and return all stakes, if it fails to finish for any reason, be it the weather or a technical failure. This also means that a punter who had placed a large bet might want to turn out the lights if things were not going his way.

The problem here, though, is that the big bookmakers monitor betting patterns with sophisticated software, and a string of large, unusual bets, allied to a sudden floodlight failure, would soon arouse suspicion.

"When there were similar suggestions last season," Sean Boyce, a football specialist with Ladbrokes, said last night, "we were able to look at the betting trends for the matches concerned, and there was no evidence of anything untoward going on in the UK. We are blessed in this country with one of, if not the, straightest games in the world."

And this is why betting onEnglish football is such a huge business in many Asian countries - in comparison with their local leagues, Asian punters and bookmakers believe English football is very honest and the sums staked on it in Asia are huge. William Hill has many clients in the Far East who think nothing of placing five- figure bets on a single result.

The type of bet favoured by many Far Eastern gamblers is unusual: a team which is an obvious favourite will be given a start, perhaps of one or two goals, so punters are not necessarily backing a team to win, but simply to do better than expected. Thus it is just possible that if Charlton Athletic were rated three-goal underdogs against Liverpool, and the lights went out with Liverpool two goals in the lead, some Far Eastern bookies would pay out on Charlton.

More significantly if a bookie had arranged the abandonment, he might keep all the money staked on Liverpool.

It seems like a great deal of trouble to go to, with no guarantee of success, but it is worth remembering that the sums at stake could be enormous.

And as any gambler will tell you, it would be a great comfort to know that while the outcome was still not certain, the odds had taken a massive shift in your favour.