Police crack down on 'courtsiding' betting at Australian Open
A man is charged with placing wagers on spot events to corrupt the markets
Reuters in Melbourne
Police have arrested a British man and are seeking a "series of individuals" suspected to be "courtsiding", or placing bets illegally on spot events to corrupt gambling markets, on tennis matches at the Australian Open.
A 22-year-old was arrested during a game at Melbourne Park and charged with one count of "engaging in conduct that would corrupt a betting outcome", deputy commissioner Graham Ashton said yesterday.
"We believe he is part of a syndicate, but we don't yet have the details," Ashton said. "I don't [think it's an isolated incident].
"I don't want to talk too much about those individuals for obvious reasons, [but] we are alert to individuals."
Police had received intelligence from Tennis Australia, the sport's governing body and organisers of the year's first grand slam, and had acted on it quickly, Ashton added.
Courtsiding invariably involves a syndicate, with a spectator using an electronic device to send a signal to another person at another location to place a bet on the outcome of a particular incident at a sporting event.
The bet is placed before legitimate agencies are able to close off wagering on a specific event.
"Overseas, certainly there are examples [of courtsiding] in relation to football and in relation to cricket," Ashton said.
"It has been around for several years. It's particularly becoming more difficult to do because of the speed of communications and technology, but it is still very active.
"As we know, the global tennis betting market is in the tens of millions [of dollars] every day," he said.
Ashton said police had made the arrest with the help of a new law targeting sports-related corruption in Victoria state, where the tournament is being held.
The law had been exercised in relation to soccer in the state's second-tier Victoria Premier League last year, Ashton said, but Tuesday's arrest was the first connected to a tennis event here.
"We did have an incident [at last year's Australian Open]. Though, at that time, we didn't have the legislation that we do now," he said.
Sports-related corruption can incur jail sentences of up to 10 years in Victoria.
Ashton said that from exchanging intelligence with authorities in New Zealand, police also believed there was courtsiding at the recent New Zealand Open tournament.
He said most of the illegal betting syndicates involved in courtsiding operated out of Europe and central Asia. "Overseas betting groups will try to engage in any way they can to disrupt and corrupt sporting events," he said.