Suspicious Activity Alerts Falling

The International Betting Integrity Association has reported that the number of alerts on suspicious wagering has fallen by 17% year-on-year for Q2 in 2019. However, this is not as simple as just a steady decline in alerts. While Q2 is steadily falling year-on-year, it is actually up compared to Q1 of 2019. A total of 51 events were flagged in Q2, showing a 38% quarter-on-quarter rise.

This data can be further broken down to see from where exactly the alerts are coming. Tennis has been the source of the most alerts in recent months, accounting for a whopping 25 of the suspicious activity reports that were filed. Shockingly, this is actually an improvement as 44 alerts were issued for tennis in the same quarter last year. This shows a 43% year-on-year decline.

Graph showing an increase in numbers.

There is a 38% quarter-on-quarter increase in flagged events.

After tennis, football was the sport with the most alerts at 18. The IBIA also raised two alerts for volleyball, two for Esports, and one each for pool, basketball, ice hockey, and table tennis.

25 of the suspicious activity alerts were located in Europe, with the majority of the European alerts coming from football (13). Asia had ten alerts for tennis and a total of 13 alerts. Interestingly, eight of Asia’s ten alerts were from Uzbekistan. There were also four alerts from South America (two for tennis in Argentina and two for football in Brazil), and three in North America (all for tennis).

Corruption in Tennis

Although the number of alerts for tennis has dropped radically this year, it is still worrying to see that the sport consistently has the highest number of suspicious activity alerts. An independent task force looking into the problem last year found that there was “serious and substantial” match fixing and various other types of corruption in the sport.

Player on a tennis court.

Tennis consistently has the highest number of suspicious activity alerts.

An Independent Review of Integrity in Tennis was published by Adam Lewis QC saying that “tennis is responsible for more suspicious betting than any other sport”. A survey of 3,200 players across all levels of professional tennis found that 464 players (14.5% of those interviewed) had first-hand knowledge of match fixing.

Lewis concluded that a lot of the problems in the game could be traced back to the International Tennis Federation’s 2012 decision to sign a $70million deal with Sportradar – a data company – to distribute live scores from small and intermediate tournaments. This deal meant that bookmakers could provide odds on these matches and gamblers were given an opportunity to exploit them. His report stated: “The panel has seen little empirical evidence that betting was widespread on the lowest levels of ITF tournaments before the deal in 2012. But in 2013, the year after the first ITF-Sportradar contract, 40,000 matches at ITF Men’s Futures and Women’s 15k and 25k events were made available to the betting market. By 2016 that number had increased to over 60,000.” Many people feel that players were vulnerable to being manipulated by fixers due to the poor prize money being offered in the Futures events. The same report found that only 336 men and 253 women were able to break even following the events, even without taking coaching costs into account.

It is not only players who have been found to be a part of the corruption in tennis. An article from The Guardian in 2016 revealed that numerous umpires were involved. Sportradar requires umpires to update the scoreboard immediately after each point using their IBM tablets. However, some umpires delayed the update slightly, which allowed gamblers to place bets knowing what was going to happen next.

The report proposed various solutions to the problems in tennis, but most were seen as controversial. It was suggested that the sale of official live scoring data at lower levels of the game should be discontinued. This proposal was not well received, with Sportradar calling it “unrealistic and potentially unlawful”.

“Prohibition simply doesn’t work. Prohibiting data partnerships will not stop betting, live or otherwise, on these matches nor will it remove corruption risk at this level. Pre-match betting will remain available and the risk of data fraud and ghost matches will increase. This will almost certainly encourage black-market activity”

Until one month ago, the IBIA was known as European Sports Security Association (ESSA). It recently changed its name to highlight its increasingly international focus and the role it plays in raising awareness of betting-related integrity issues globally.

Khalid Ali, IBIA Secretary, explained: “The new name communicates who we are, what we do and where we want to be. The association has been active across six continents in recent years, with almost half of our alerts coming from outside of Europe. This activity will only increase as gambling markets around the world continue to open up to regulation. The debate is global and our strategic focus must evolve in line with that.”

Jon Russell, Head of Global Trading for Betway and IBIA’s non-executive Chairman, added: “Our members represent a sizeable part of the worldwide regulated betting market and their business strategies reflect global ambitions. Integrity has become a key regulatory issue in that market debate, with membership of a monitoring body a licensing requirement in some cases. Betting and integrity are now inseparable, and I encourage all responsible operators to join us and take advantage of the multifaceted business benefits membership brings.”

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Tennis ball spinning.

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