Billiards Takes a Hit

Billiards is enjoying a resurgence in popularity with the 2011 World Snooker Championship final drawing its largest audience (6.6 million) in five years, and the 2012 Championship's audience 20% larger, according to Barry Hearn, world snooker chief. The sport is reportedly China's most popular sport to watch and there is excitement that Hearn can bring the sport back to the popularity levels it enjoyed in the 1980's.

Billiards, the game with noble beginnings enjoyed by Mary, Queen of Scots, Abraham Lincoln, Mozart, W. C. Fields, and Fred Astaire, is not scandal-proof with match-fixing allegations and bans from the sport becoming more frequent. Online sports betting and other online gaming sites such as bingo and other casino sites on the rise, this means more people playing. This also means that more people will try and bend the rules.

2012 was a particularly busy year for billiards match fixing.

Joe Jogia, once number 44 in the world, received a two-year ban and a fine of £2,000 costs after the WPBSA noticed an irregular pattern of small bets placed on Matthew Selt to win their shoot-out match in January 2012. Jogia has said that match fixing is becoming commonplace in billiards and that he was once offered £15,000 to lose a snooker match. His first exposure to billiards corruption occurred in 2006m coincidentally the same year that Australian Quinten Hann, was given an eight-year ban from snooker for frame throwing.

The World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (WPBSA) WPBSA suspended Stephen Lee, a top player, in October over allegations of suspicious betting surrounding a match with three times world champion John Higgins. With the probe expanded to include match fixing allegations against Lee during eight matches in 2008 and 2009, including the 2009 World Championship, Lee's career is on the line.

John Higgins had troubles of his own when a News of the World crew, pretending to be members of an illegal betting ring, set up a fake meeting with Higgins and his manager Pat Mooney, offering him money to throw frames. Although he was not found guilty of match fixing, the WPBSA suspended Higgins for six months and fined him £75,000 for failing to report the meeting. The incident ruined Mooney's career - he received a harsher punishment of a £25,000 fine and a lifetime ban from snooker.

Following the Higgins match fixing scandals, the WPBSA introduced a hotline allowing professional snooker players to match fixing activity and has vowed to ban players breaking its rules on betting.

2012 was also a big year for match-fixing in professional soccer, with its governing body FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) issuing bans in 2013 for 74 people investigated for match fixing and corruption activities in 2012 involving South Korea and Italy. In addition, 58 people were banned related to match fixing in China. Eurpopol ended an 18-month investigation into a Singapore-based ring involving 425 match officials across 15 countries that hoped to make over $10 million profit in fixing 380 soccer matches.

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