* Arrested man believed to be part of syndicate
* Speed of communications making ‘courtsiding’ more difficult (Writes through)
By Ian Ransom
MELBOURNE, Jan 15 (Reuters) - 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 on Tuesday and charged with one count of “engaging in conduct that would corrupt a betting outcome,” deputy commissioner Graham Ashton told reporters in Melbourne on Wednesday.
“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 betting agencies are able to close off wagering on a specific event.
“Overseas, certainly there are examples (of courtsiding) in relation to football, 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.”
Ashton said police had made the arrest with the help of new legislation targeting sports-related corruption in Victoria state, where the tournament is held.
The legislation 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 made in relation to a tennis event in the state.
“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.
He added that 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. (Editing by John O’Brien)