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Gambling was rampant in Aussie squad: Ex-manager

Unidentified casinos regularly offered spinner Shane Warne "play money" to bet, with no requirement that he repay what he lost.

india Updated: Nov 12, 2003 12:26 IST

A worrying gambling culture pervaded the Australian cricket squad at one time, and in spite of being informed, the country's cricket authorities opted to keep their lips zipped and chose to push this problem under the carpet, claims the team's former manager, Ian McDonald in a new book written by former ACB CEO Graham Halbish.

Unidentified casinos, regularly offered leg spinner Shane Warne large amounts of "play money" with which to bet, with no requirement that he repay what he lost, McDonald was quoted by the Herald Sun as saying.

Other senior players often asked for advances on tour fees so that they could pay their gambling debts, says McDonald, who initially was asked to investigate the "play money allegation" as also the bookmakers scandal involving Warne and fellow player Mark Waugh.

McDonald is heavily quoted in Halbish's memoirs - Run Out- My dismissal and the inside story of cricket, which is to be released on Thursday. Halbish was mysteriously sacked six years ago.

McDonald also found himself sacked without warning soon after Halbish's exit, with the board refusing to make public the reasons in either case.

In 1995, Halbish asked McDonald to investigate rumors that two players were dealing with Asian bookmakers betting on cricket, with Warne and Waugh admitting they had taken money from a bookmaker. The ACB fined them heavily but kept the incident secret for four years until the media uncovered it.

In the book, McDonald says: "Warne and Waugh both like a bet and it was more than likely they would both seek out a casino or racetrack anywhere they toured, in Australia or overseas. This incident happened in Sri Lanka but it could have happened anywhere.

"More than once, I tried to tell the ACB in years to come about the implications of the team gambling at casinos. These players were getting paid big money to play cricket. They were star sportsmen and they were associating with high-rolling gamblers. I know that at any time Warne walked into a casino he was offered thousands of dollars just to gamble," he says.

"It was play money and he could keep any winnings. Warne is high profile, but lesser-known players used to go there and get offers to gamble for nothing. I found it strange the ACB tolerated this," he adds.

McDonald does not actually say that Warne accepted the offers, but makes no suggestion to the contrary. Halbish says that neither he nor McDonald believed Warne and Waugh were guilty of anything sinister, only that they had behaved foolishly in getting involved with the bookie.

"I felt no panic about this because it sounded about right if you knew these blokes. I know of several others who have sought an advance on their tour allowances to fund their excesses on the punt," Halbish writes.

First Published: Nov 12, 2003 12:18 IST