When it comes to sportsbetting, the smallest edge can give a punter an unfair advantage over the rest of the field, and in Australia, as elsewhere in the world, anything that would give advanced or insider information to this end is considered illegal.
One particular practice that offers such as edge , known as “courtsiding”, involves sitting courtside at an event and sending messages from a mobile device to a third party – usually overseas – to give them a small window of opportunity to place the bet before the bookies know the outcome or progression of a particular match.
Now a 22-year-old British man has been arrested while attending the Australian Open, after officers witnessed him partaking in “courtsiding”, which is essentially placing bets on the point outcomes of the games at courtside during play.
The man was caught taking part in the illegal form of betting earlier this week at Melbourne Park, was arrested, and then charged with engaging in conduct that would corrupt a betting outcome.
Crime Syndicates Moving In
The Victorian Police’s Sporting Integrity Intelligence Unit and Melbourne Crime Investigation Unit have been working alongside officials of Tennis Australia during the tournament, trying to seek out individuals and groups who might be looking to get this kind of sports betting edge – on which, let’s face it, big money can ride. Reports say police believe the Brit to be a part of an Eastern European crime syndicate which paricularly targets international sporting events, such as the Australian Open, so the problem is clearly a global and massive one for authorities to combat and stay on top of.
Deputy Commissioner Graham Ashton has even stated that police believe the British man came to Australia specifically to attend the Australian Open, and said that any syndicates thinking of visiting the country in order to corrupt the betting system should take heed of the swift arrest.
“Certainly within Victoria we send a very strong message that it won’t be tolerated and will be dealt with swiftly, both by tennis authorities and by police,” said the Deputy Commissioner.
As yet, police do not believe that any players in the Australian Open are involved in the suspected syndicate betting, unlike the recent soccer scandal which revealed corruption within the players of the Southern Stars, as well as its coach.
The practice of courtsiding was banned in tennis back in April last year, as part of the Victorian state parliament’s attempts to clampdown on illegal sports betting. The recent arrest marks the first possible criminal charges taken as a result of the new law, so it will be interesting to see what the courts decide should the man be found guilty, as some offences – such as those in the recent soccer scandal – carry a maximum penalty of ten years in prison.
The suspect has now been banned from attending the rest of the Australian Open as one of the conditions of his bail, and is due to appear before the Melbourne Magistrates Court shortly.
While details have not been given, the Deputy Commissioner did say that police will be monitoring several people during the remainder of the tournament to determine whether or not others attending the matches are also involved.
“This year our intelligence says there are other people in Melbourne with the intention of courtsiding, so we’re keeping a close eye on the rest of the event,” explained Ashton. “Certainly part of me standing here is to say to other people if you are in Melbourne and are thinking about engaging in it, think again.”
He added that any and all allegations will be taken very seriously, since the global betting market in tennis is valued at tens of millions of dollars.