Novelist. Author of APSARAS and tales from the beautiful Saigh Valley. First person to quantify spiritual values.

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Sunday 29 August 2010

Gambling ( and Pakistan cricket)

Not for the first time, the Pakistan cricket team is embroiled in scandal.
The police are investigations allegations that members of the team are playing to a plan to defraud bookmakers in a 'spot' betting scam.
It is alleged that a middle-man arranged for two bowlers to bowl 'no-balls' at specific times in the match. A News of the World investigation found that the occurrences of some 'no-balls' in the 4th test match against England at Lords, exactly matched those provided by the middle-man. The said no-balls were so exaggerated that it was commented on by a television commentator.

Some years ago, the Pakistan team was accused by an umpire of ball tampering, an accusation that led to the abandonment of a test match and umpire Hare's eventual suspension. Later the Pakistan team was acquitted of any wrongdoing and Hare was re-instated two years later only to resign because of the lack of appointments he was given to officiate at test matches.

This is not a victimless crime, if it is eventually proved to be one. Besides the bookmakers, two England batsmen who scored over three hundred run in a partnership that set new world standards, will have their achievements diminished, if not extinguished altogether.
Then again, there are the Pakistani people. Whilst they are suffering unprecedented horrors at home with the monsoon flooding, they will be horrified that cricketers playing under their National banner are behaving inappropriately for money. The National pride will slump, especially if the team is eventually barred from International cricket.

Fraud in the betting industry is not new. It is, I believe, rife, especially in Asia where it is an obsession with many communities. Even in countries such as Thailand, with no officially sanctioned gambling industry, it survives, indeed thrives, underground, fuelling the treasuries and therefore the power of the gangs, triads and tongs.

Gambling is an inevitable pastime of men. It cannot be stopped in the same way that playing sports cannot be stopped. However, because it is addictive and can cause personal and familial distress, it should be regulated and supervised. Whilst advertising for tobacco is banned on television and there is pressure to change the regulations with regard to alcohol, the last Labour Government sanctioned the advertising of their products on television by Gambling companies. Perversely, this has enabled the Commercial channels, like ITV, to stay in business during the recession, as the airwaves seem to be full of Gambling ads including those for on-line Bingo.
However, I believe this a wrong step forward and will encourage vulnerable people, especially those on lower incomes,to lose their money. If it was a move by the Labour administration to increase tax revenues from this industry, it was an abuse of power for the Government to permit this advertising.

One will probably never know the full story of the 'No-ball' controversy. It may be that a young bowler will sell his soul to these middle-men, not because of monetary gain but because their families have been threatened back home. Al Qaeda may be involved. It is worth remembering that gambling is very big business and where large sums of money are involved, the gangs will stop at nothing in their ruthless and greedy chase for cash. Innocent people will die and it may well be that amongst the collateral damage, the lovely and essentially peaceful English game of cricket will also become a victim.

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