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Last Updated: Monday, 16 June, 2003, 12:49 GMT 13:49 UK
Internet betting cleans up its act
The two largest betting exchanges on the internet - Betfair and Sporting Options - have struck a deal to give the Jockey Club access to their clients' records.

Betfair co-founders Andrew Black (left) and Edward Wray (right)
High Street bookmakers have monitored Betfair's rise with barely disguised fury

The move is part of an attempt to clean up the horseracing industry following a series of scandals last year.

It means Jockey Club officials can track who has been placing bets if they are suspicious of fraudulent activity.

Punters signing up to the companies' websites will have to give their agreement.

Unlike conventional bookmakers, betting exchanges allow punters to lay odds on horses and bet against each other.

Money trail

But there has been concern that some people have been using inside information to rig the market.

The Jockey Club is particularly concerned that punters on betting exchanges can make cash out of horses losing.

But the regulator is also in talks with the major High Street bookmakers with a view to extending the agreement to cover the whole of the betting industry.

Previous attempts to clean up horseracing have fallen at the first hurdle, because the Data Protection Act has prevented the Jockey Club from following the money trail back to individuals.

'Murkier side'

Government legislation is in the pipeline to rectify this.

There has to be confidence in the sport if it is to continue growing
John Maxse, The Jockey Club
But the Jockey Club has said it wants to bring in voluntary agreements without delay to improve the sport's tarnished image.

"There was a lot of publicity last year, which was digging around in the murkier side of the sport.

"But what we have recognised throughout is that there has to be confidence in the sport if it is to continue growing," said Jockey Club spokesman John Maxse.

The Jockey Club also plans next month to ban trainers and stable staff from placing their own horses on betting exchanges, although owners will not be completely banned from doing the same.

Betting exchanges already alert the Jockey Club when there is suspected foul play, Mr Maxse told BBC News Online.

But under the new agreement, Betfair and Sporting Options will hand over names of suspects.

"I can understand people's concerns about privacy, but it means people using these sites will be better protected," Mr Maxse added.

Fighting corruption

If there is evidence of serious wrongdoing, the Jockey Club could ban the alleged culprits from racing or hand their details over to the police, he said.

Betfair and Sporting Options can also suspend the accounts of alleged wrongdoers.

The agreement come into effect at 1700GMT on Monday.

Betfair said it wants to help fight corruption in racing.

It said the initiative would ensure its customers were "betting against honest individuals and not "sharks" who are attempting to fix the outcome".

Betfair spokesman Mark Davies said: "We think it is in the interests of the whole of racing to follow suit."

He reassured customers their details would not be passed on to the Jockey Club without clear evidence of wrongdoing.

"The honest punter has nothing to fear from this, because the information is not going to be given out willy nilly."

But not every betting exchange on the internet has signed up to the new initiative.

Ireland-based Betdaq has questioned whether the Jockey Club - rather than the police or the judiciary - is the proper authority to pursue allegations of serious misconduct.

It also has concerns about clients' privacy.


But company spokesman Rob Hartnett said Betdaq fully supported planned government moves to make it easier to track down betting cheats.

"We will not be a haven for crooked activity. We just want the Jockey Club and the whole betting industry to think this through," he told News Online.

Betdaq would continue to supply information to the Jockey Club on betting patterns and suspend those customers it suspected of cheating, he added.

But he said the Jockey Club should set out clearer guidelines for investigating an individual.

"We will just not give potentially innocent individual's private details. It is just wrong," he said.

The BBC's Navdip Dhariwal reports
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