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MPs cast beady eye over betting exchanges

Urge fraud crackdown

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MPs are urging several changes to the Gambling Bill to deal with increasing use of the internet to bet on sports events.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Betting and Gaming has spent four months investigating the industry. It warns that internet exchanges - where punters bet with each other rather than with a bookmaker - increase the chances of fraudulent bets being placed. In a report, the MPs have made fifteen recomendations for changes to existing laws and are calling for an increase in the current two-year maximum sentence for gambling fraud.

The MPs welcomed the memorandum of understanding signed between Betfair, the UK's biggest betting exchange, and the governing bodies of the sports which it offers bets on. They called for similar agreements to be put in place for other bookmakers and sports.

The group also praised the "audit trail" offered by betting exchanges as a good way to combat fraud. High Street betting shops do not identify gamblers which can make detecting fraud, and prosecuting fraudsters, more difficult.

The inquiry was started after the chief executive of Ladbrokes claimed at least one horse race a day was fixed because of the availability of laying odds - i.e. backing horses to lose - on online exchanges.

Tessa Jowell's Gambling Bill has had a tricky journey through Parliament, upsetting people with its calls for giant casinos. The Bill has now passed the Commons and is being considered by the Lords. ®

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