Wimbledon 97: Court circular: Stuffed shirts bar bookies

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The Independent Online
Fancy a bet on the tennis? Plenty do. Thanks to the glory charge of the British men, bookmakers report unprecedented interest in Wimbledon, William Hill's alone standing to lose pounds 1m should a Henman or a Rusedski lift the trophy a week on Sunday.

But for those attending the event the advice is to get the money on before stepping into the All England Club. Catching sight of a betting booth inside the hallowed grounds is as likely as spotting the Rusedski frown.

Which is all very curious because big sport nowadays is big betting business. Apart from the Open golf no other major sporting event closes its doors to the tic-tac brigade.

In 1975 Hill's were invited to take a site at Wimbledon. Interest, according to their media relations manager Graham Sharpe, was huge. Yet it did not go down well with the stuffed shirts. The following year Hill's found their rent drastically increased and their proposed site somewhat less attractive.

"Maybe we were too successful too soon," Sharpe suggested. "But the world has moved on considerably since those times. We are a lot more sophisticated now with better facilities. Because of the emergence of some genuine British talent and because of the satellite TV coverage of the game, tennis is now one of the fastest growing betting sports but Wimbledon don't seem to want to know."

Yesterday's win brought a sharp knife to Rusedski's title odds. A 66- 1 shot before the Stella Artois tournament two weeks ago, he is now down to 12s which the Sporting Life's Dan Garrett claims is poor value. At 25-1 Tim Henman offers a bigger return.

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