Exclusive by Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd
Ever since EastbourneTennis.com staff were mistaken by police as leading a team of Russian online gamblers during the 2010 event at Devonshire Park, tennis officials have been trained to spot betting scams on the ATP and WTA tours.
Two tennis fans have been ejected from the respective ABS Classic WTA and Heineken Open ATP tournaments in 2012, within a week at January’s annual pre-Australian Open event in Auckland, New Zealand.
ATP Tour supervisor Tom Barnes said:
“On some European betting sites you can bet on a first serve and whether it will be a fault.
“These people are very crafty. Somebody sitting in the stands with a cell phone can transmit this information to someone in Europe and the person who is making the bet will have the information before anybody else – they are actually cheating in that respect.”
A Spanish man was removed from the 2012 ABS Classic, and the following week a New Zealand man was ejected from the Heineken Open.
There was a mad rush on tickets for these two events in London, England, with more than £1,500 (US$2,000) spent – much higher interest than previous years.
“The chair umpires, linesman and myself, we all look around for that. We have been trained in how to spot these people and it is pretty obvious, if everybody in the stands is standing up applauding and one guy is sitting there with his hands in his pockets. They show up everywhere.”
The Tennis Integrity Unit is now set to net any potential illegal betting and will fully investigate after these two incidents when the respective spectators were using a handheld device, believed by tennis officials to be used to specifically bet on points in order to take advantage of the delay of few seconds that online betting websites and live television take to transmit.
“We do not want to be tarnished with the brush that people are cheating in that way. This is our way of trying to protect the integrity of the sport.”