- Associated Press - Friday, June 10, 2011

ROME (AP) - The Italian government introduced a task force on Friday to combat match-fixing in soccer but has no plans to limit legal betting on games amid the latest scandal to tarnish the sport.

The investigative task force will be composed of representatives from the interior ministry, sports federations and the treasury ministry.

Sixteen people were arrested in Italy last week for alleged involvement in a match-fixing and betting ring. Some 18 matches _ mostly in Serie B and C _ are under investigation by prosecutors in Cremona. Preliminary hearings have suggested Serie A matches also could be involved.

Interior Minister Roberto Maroni unveiled the task force alongside Italian Olympic Committee president Giovanni Petrucci and Italian soccer federation president Giancarlo Abete.

“Together with Petrucci and Abete, we’ve analyzed what has emerged lately in terms of football match-fixing, and we’re trying to take action so that this can’t be repeated,” Maroni said. “Therefore we’ve decided to create an investigative unit with the aim of gathering information and evaluating abnormal signals from betting parlors and other sources.”

Maroni said there’s no point in limiting legal betting because that would trigger more illicit gambling.

“Football and sports attract a lot of betting and we’re not interested in impeding or limiting that _ but regulating it, yes.”

Maroni said the task force will have the power to use police forces, “because we can’t exclude the fact that behind this illicit activity lies the hand of organized crime.”

Maroni said the task force would begin meeting next week, calling it “an immediate reaction from the sports world and the government to what happened.”

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