Bookmakers refuse to pay out

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The Independent Online

Bookmakers are withholding payment on two matches at the Scottish Open in Aberdeen after having doubts over betting patterns. They had reports of punters walking into betting shops and producing five-figure cash sums in an attempt to land coups on minor games which would normally have attracted a handful of modest bets.

Bookmakers were forced to suspended betting on Wednesday's first-round game between Patrick Wallace and Darren Clarke and the second-round tie between Sean Storey and Jimmy Michie. Wallace and Storey won 5-2 and 5-3, respectively.

Nick Jones, spokesman for the Manchester-based bookmakers Done, said: "One punter walked into one of our Manchester shops and wanted £6,000 on Wallace to win £5,000 [Dones were betting 5-6 each of two]. We restricted him to £300 to win £250 but, even if he had asked for that straight away, the alarm bells would have been ringing. It was a size of bet we wouldn't expect to see outside the world championship. These customer was not known to us and didn't seem to know how the betting world works. It's naive to try to put £6,000 on a match like that without expecting alarm bells to ring." A warning was sent out to Done's 120 shops.

Jones said the betting on the Storey-Michie game was even more disturbing. Michie was 4-6 favourite, with Storey 11-10. Jones said: "At 2.20pm, 10 minutes before the game started, a punter went into our shop in Castleford and wanted £10,000 on Storey at 11-10. Unbelievable. We just told him to 'go away'."

And Dave Buck, spokesman for Stan James bookmakers, said: "Following rumours of punters trying to bet five-figure sums up in Aberdeen, we had to suspend betting on the Storey-Michie game."

This is not the first time that Michie, 28, from Pontefract, has found himself the talk of the betting shop. In 1998, William Hill suspended betting on Michie's British Open game with Mark Gray after Gray was gambled on from 11-10 to 1-3 favourite. Michie lost 5-3, but was cleared of any wrongdoing by the World Professional Billiard and Snooker Association.

Michie yesterday denied any involvement in Wednesday's alleged gambling coup. Michie, ranked 39th, said: "When these things happen it always seems to be down to me. Why should I want to throw a match? I had a chance of breaking into the top 32 had I done well in Aberdeen. My career is just taking off." Wallace said yesterday: "I wasn't happy to read about it in the papers this morning."

The Betting Office Licencees' Association, the bookmakers' watchdog, received calls from several bookmakers concerned by betting on the two games. John Johnson, BOLA's spokesman, said BOLA will send their evidence to the World Snooker Association. He added: "BOLA advises members to withhold settlement on all bets on yesterday's matches between Patrick Wallace and Darren Clarke and Jimmy Michie and Sean Storey pending the outcome of inquiries."

Matthew Finn, spokesman for the WSA, said in a statement: "Following media reports concerning unusual betting patterns on two matches at the Scottish Open, we have investigated and, at present, there is no evidence that disciplinary rules of the WSA have been breached. We had our experts watching both matches. We are in close contact with BOLA and together we are monitoring the situation."

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