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Thursday, 17 October, 2002, 17:17 GMT 18:17 UK
Bookies suspend Booker betting
Booker Prize judges
The judges have not decided on the real winner
Bookmaker William Hill has suspended betting on the Booker prize, after the "winner" was named on the Booker website days before the announcement.

The company reported a huge increase in bets on Yann Martel's Life of Pi - with some people betting up to 100 - after the site published a page saying it had won the prestigious literary prize.

However competition organisers later admitted that the page had accidentally made its way on to the site while being prepared offline.

"We were baffled by a string of bets for the Martel book," said William Hill spokesman Graham Sharpe, "and then concerned when we heard that the book had already been announced as the winner.

"We thought it might be wise at this point to close the book, pending enquiries."
Author Yann Martel
Yann Martel is third favourite with bookmakers

Mistake

"The organisers of the award assure us that the mystery announcement appeared on the website by mistake and we are happy to accept that.

"But as a result everyone wants to back Martel and our book has become lopsided. We hope to reopen the betting when the situation dies down a little."

A Booker spokeswoman explained that before the official announcement, the web team prepares six different pages saying each shortlisted author has won, so they are ready for each possibility.

"Yann Martel is the first in the alphabetical list," a Booker spokeswoman told BBC News Online.

William Trevor
William Trevor is the oldest shortlisted author
"Somehow, they put the page live by mistake. These things happen."

She said the judges would meet on Tuesday to decide the winner, and do not make a decision in advance of the ceremony because it would inevitably be leaked.

"They meet on the night because it's the only safe thing to do."

The last formal talks they had were when they whittled the long list of 20 down to a shortlist of six at the end of September.

Headlines

Before betting was suspended, Martel was third favourite to win the prize for his novel Life Of Pi.

Irish-born William Trevor, 74, has been hotly tipped to take the prize for The Story Of Lucy Gault.

Sarah Waters, whose first novel Tipping the Velvet has hit the headlines after being adapted for television, was second favourite for her third work, Fingersmith.

Australian Tim Winton, Orange Prize-winner Carol Shields and Indian-born Rohinton Mistry are also on the shortlist.

Coverage of the 2002 Booker Prize from BBC News Online and BBCi Arts


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30 Sep 02 | Entertainment
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