Hold all Bets !

The TAB has stopped taking bets on who will win the National Rugby League (NRL) premiership and the Canterbury Bulldogs' next game, bookmaker in charge of rugby league Kevin Gutschlag said today.

Betting had not resumed since Friday and would be suspended until the NRL decided the fate of the Bulldogs, who yesterday admitted exceeding the competition salary cap by more than $A1 million ($NZ1.17 million) over the past two seasons.

NRL chief executive David Gallop has not ruled out expelling the premiership leading team from the 2002 competition. Heavy fines or a deduction of competition points were other possible sanctions.

One New Zealand punter stood to lose $27,000 if the Bulldogs were eliminated, Mr Gutschlag said. The big gamble on a Bulldogs' premiership win would be worth about $100,000 .

The Bulldogs were the TAB's most heavily backed side, with $38,000 in total bets.

But indications from the NRL were that the Bulldogs would be heavily punished and were unlikely to play in the finals, Mr Gutschlag said. "We'd better let discretion be the better part of valour and wait for the NRL's decision before taking any more bets."

The TAB would not refund bets on the Bulldogs if NRL sanctions knocked them out of the premiership. Australia's biggest sports betting bookmakers, CentreBet, had also suspended all betting on the NRL.

CentreBet manager Gerard Daffy said he had spoken to professional punters who were considering taking legal action to recoup "lost earnings". Mr Gutschlag said the New Zealand Warriors would be well-placed if the Bulldogs were eliminated.

The Warriors would likely shorten to $3 while the Brisbane Broncos would become favourites at $2.50. The Warriors' premiership odds have dropped considerably with wins over the Bulldogs and the Brisbane Broncos in the past two weeks.

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