Spectator ejected on suspicion of illegal betting
AUCKLAND, New Zealand (AP)—A spectator was ejected from the Heineken Open tennis tournament on Tuesday and the Tennis Integrity Unit was investigating possible illegal betting, New Zealand media reported.
Radio Sports said the New Zealand man was seen using a handheld device, possibly to bet on specific points and take advantage of the delay of several seconds before other gamblers saw the points played on television.
At last week’s women’s tournament at the same venue, a Spanish man who reportedly had been previously ejected from Wimbledon, was asked to leave the event.
Radio Sports said more than 2,500 New Zealand dollars ($2,000) in tickets to the tournament were purchased in London, an unusually large amount.
ATP Tour supervisor Tom Barnes said illegal betting, using the time lag that occurred with internet scoring or live television, was a common problem and officials were trained to watch for spectators possibly transmitting information.
“(They use) a laptop or a cell phone—these people are very crafty,” Barnes told the New Zealand Herald.
“On some of these European betting sites, you can bet for example on a first serve and whether a guy is going to make a fault or not.
“Somebody sitting in the stands with a cell phone can transmit this information to someone in Europe and the guy will bet that the first serve was a fault. And the person who is making the bet will have the information before anybody else so they’re actually cheating in that respect.”
Barnes said Auckland police had not been involved in the incidents at the ASB Classic and Heineken Open tournaments.
Richard Palmer, director of both tournaments, said all information around the people ejected was confidential. Criminal charges were not necessarily likely to be laid.
“We see them,” Barnes said. “All of us look for that. The chair umpires, linesman, myself, we all look around. We’ve been trained in how to spot these people. Most of the time it’s pretty obvious, everybody in the stands is standing up applauding and one guy is sitting there with his hands in his pockets.”
Barnes said the two people ejected from the Auckland tournaments were likely known to the ATP Tour.
“It’s almost as if it’s a career opportunity for some people. They show up everywhere,” he said.
Though such betting was not fixing results or even influencing the play on court, Barnes said it was important the sport protected its image by stamping out any dishonest gambling.
“It’s a tennis issue in the sense that we have a clean sport and we want to keep it that way,” Barnes said.
“We don’t want to be tarnished with the brush that people are cheating in that way and people assume that it’s something we’re doing that’s causing that. This is our way of trying to protect the integrity of the sport.”