March 20, 2012 / 6:52 PM / 6 years ago

Bookmakers to monitor big bets on minor sports

Olympic rings mounted on a barge are manoeuvred to pass under Tower Bridge during a promotional event for the London 2012 Olympic Games, on the River Thames in London February 28, 2012. REUTERS/Andrew Winning

LONDON (Reuters) - British bookmakers will be monitoring unusually big wagers placed on minor sports during the London Olympics to help prevent fixing scandals from blighting the Games, a senior industry figure said on Tuesday.

Betting industry representatives and Games organisers held a seminar in London to discuss strategies to help ensure that illegal gambling syndicates do not corrupt athletes.

“If I see a bet of more than 50 pounds I’ll be looking at who it is, because I‘m not expecting 50 pounds on weightlifting or badminton,” said Mike O‘Kane, Business Director at British bookmaker Ladbrokes which chaired the meeting.

Concerns centre on back-street bookmakers based in Asia who have been linked to high-profile fixing scandals in cricket. Corruption has been cited as posing as serious a threat to the Olympics as doping.

“Where the issues are if there are any issues will be illegal betting out of Asia,” O‘Kane told Reuters.

“What we’ve got to do is make sure that that market isn’t able to influence a participant and that is something the IOC (International Olympic Committee) has got to get hold of,” he added.

Athletes and officials are banned from betting on events during the Games. The IOC plans to set up an information booth in the Olympic village to warn athletes of the risk of gambling.

“You’ve got to ask yourself the question if you’re an Olympic participant are you going to risk all of the kudos of representing your country and for what financial gain.” O‘Kane said.

Operators would not take bets that risked undermining the IOC, he added.

“We will not offer bets that are likely to threaten the integrity of the Games so we’re not going to offer, for instance, bets on how many failed drugs tests there will be or markets that clearly are likely to lead to integrity problems.”

The British betting industry says that the Euro 2012 soccer tournament in June is a much bigger event for it than the Olympics.

“The average person on the street loves the Olympics, it’s a great spectacle but it’s not really a betting medium. It’s something to enjoy on the television with the family or go to the Games,” O‘Kane said.

Writing by Keith Weir

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