Wednesday, March 31, 1999 Published at 12:29 GMT 13:29 UK
Singapore bets on match fixing curb
Match rigging is the scourge of Asian football
By David Willis in Singapore
Singapore is taking further measures to curb the problem of football match fixing.
When the new league season gets under way on Wednesday, betting will be allowed on the outcome of matches for the very first time.
The move is intended to undermine the illegal betting syndicates which have resorted to bribing players and officials in order to maximise their profits.
Singapore is the first country in the region to legalise betting of football. If the scheme proves successful it is thought some neighbouring countries will follow suit.
Singaporeans love to gamble and every Saturday hundreds of thousands of dollars change hands in what, up to now, have been illegal bets on football matches.
That is why they have decided to legalise football betting.
Punters can now place their bets at any one of the 150 outlets run by Singapore Pools, which operates the country's national lottery.
Previously, the lottery and horse racing were the only forms of legalised gambling in Singapore.
Initially, bets will only be taken on the outcome of local league matches, but soon the system will be expanded to take in European and World Cup matches, as well as the English Premier League.
Illegal betting syndicates have devastated the professional game in South East Asia. There was a time when 90% of games in neighbouring Malaysia were fixed.
The head of one Singapore-based syndicate was said to be earning more than a $1m a week before he was arrested and jailed.
When police raided his betting empire they found it contained 37 telephone lines.
Officials estimate that legalised football betting will bring in more than $130m per season, but the main intention is to curb the menace of soccer corruption before Asia plays host to the World Cup Finals in 2002.