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AAP

2013-02-08

Wagering operators say the best way to clamp down on match-fixing in sports is to have strong regulators, and bans will only force it underground.

The Australian Crime Commission on Thursday identified widespread doping in professional sport and possible match-fixing and manipulation of betting markets.

Victoria Police also warned of a major risk of match-fixing in Australian sport, particularly A-League soccer.

Gambling firm Tabcorp acknowledged on Friday that integrity in sport was paramount, but banning sports betting would only drive the practice underground.

"It is important that the focus on tight regulation and operation by reliable wagering operators continues," Tabcorp said in a statement.

"It's far safer to have a well regulated betting industry, whose operations are open to scrutiny, than allow the activity to go underground and unchecked."

Tabcorp said Australia had some of the most sophisticated sports betting regulations in the world.

Australian wagering operators and sporting bodies also had sophisticated measures in place to identify and manage integrity matters.

"Governments, regulators, wagering operators and sporting bodies continue to work together to strengthen these measures," Tabcorp said.

Tabcorp said turnover in the overall sports wagering market in Australia was worth $4.0 billion in 2012. Sports wagering includes the NRL, AFL, cricket, tennis, and other sports, but not racing.

Wagering on racing was worth $21.5 billion.

Sports wagering in 2012 grew by 3.6 per cent.

Tabcorp said its turnover in 2012 for sports betting was $1.3 billion.

Live betting during sports events, which is permitted via telephone and in TAB outlets but not online, accounted for 15 per cent of Tabcorp's sports betting turnover.

Tabcorp's turnover from live betting grew 20 per cent on the previous year.

The Australian Wagering Council (AWC) - whose members include betting agencies and exchanges Sportsbet, Betfair, Sportingbet Group Australia, Tom Waterhouse.com, and Bet 365 - said the operation of overseas betting could damage the integrity of sports betting.

Australian punters and Australian sport needed protection from unregulated offshore illegal gambling operators and local illegal SP bookmakers.

"For those Australians who like to wager on sporting events, it is imperative that any bets be placed with reputable, regulated and legal Australian wagering organisations," AWC chief executive Chris Downy said in a statement.

Mr Downy said legalised and regulated account-based wagering made it easier for reputable Australian wagering operators to identify and report unusual bets and suspicious betting patterns to authorities.

The AWC said corruption and match-fixing in sport would dramatically worsen if sports betting were to be suspended.

"People will still find ways to wager on sport if they have the desire to do so," the AWC said.

"Any attempts to introduce bans on sports betting will do exactly what Prohibition (the US ban on the sale of alcohol from 1920 to 1933) did. It will make criminals richer and encourage corrupt behaviour."

Trevor Chappell