Monday, September 22, 2003

Gambling site stops wagers on 'Survivor'



By David Bauder
The Associated Press

An offshore bookie who takes wagers on the outcome of CBS' Survivor decided not to take bets last week, suspicious that someone who knows the winner is spreading inside information.

The reality series, which premiered its seventh edition from Pearl Island on Thursday, has been relatively free of security problems despite an Internet cottage industry in guessing winners and losers.

The Antigua-based company, BetWWTS.com, has taken bets from as many as 1,000 people for past editions of Survivor.

The company rarely does any action with Survivor before the show gets on the air. Betting usually heats up after the show has been on for at least a month and viewers get to know the characters, said Simon Noble, the company's CEO.

"If we get five bets (before the game), I'd be stunned," Noble said. "Nobody can relate to any of the contestants or develop a strong opinion."

Yet in the past few days, the company took more than 15 bets on the same contestant, all from people who lived near each other in Vancouver, British Columbia, he said. The company shut the game down.

Noble wouldn't identify the contestant, but said it was a woman who lives near Vancouver.

The CBS Web site identifies one contestant, Sandra Diaz-Twine, as living in Fort Lewis, Wash. She's a 29-year-old U.S. Army veteran who now works as an office assistant. She's married with two children.

On the Web site, Diaz-Twine says she believes she's a contender to win because of her ability to improvise and knowledge of hunting.

CBS spokesman Chris Ender pointed out that although filming for the Pearl Island game is complete, the results are sealed.

"The truth is, only (Survivor executive producer) Mark Burnett and a couple of CBS executives know who won," he said. "Certainly, Mr. Burnett doesn't need the money you could win ..."

As for whether someone is trying to profit on inside information, Ender said, "we'll know for sure in December."

"Everyone in America likes to speculate on who won Survivor," he said. "It's become sort of a pop culture sport."

Twice before the bookmaker has had to suspend betting on a reality game. Once, for ABC's The Bachelor, it received a large number of bets from the bachelor's hometown on the woman he eventually chose as the winner.

For the Amazon edition of Survivor last spring, the company suspended betting a month before the televised finale because of a concentration of wagers on two contestants, including eventual winner Jenna Morasca.

Another offshore bookmaker, BoDog.com, suspended betting last spring after allegedly finding at least two CBS employees betting on the show's outcome.




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