A 22-year old man from the UK was arrested on Tuesday at 5.30pm after being observed by Victorian Police placing bets on point outcomes, a practise being described as ‘courtsiding’, throughout a match at the Australian Open.
*Update* 5:15pm 16/01/2014 – no better explanation of the situation, post court today, than what Scott Ferguson has posted which can be found at http://www.sportismadeforbetting.com.
While the exact bets being placed haven’t been released to the public, my strong assumption would be that the ‘trader’ (this is the correct term for the acts he was engaging in) was placing bets as soon as a point was won. The advantage to being on court to make these trades is that the vision of the match is broadcast with around a second or two delay to viewers all over Australia and the World, when he is obviously seeing it live.
Let’s be clear, there is nothing in the law that states ‘courtsiding’ is illegal. The same can be said for in-play trading in Australia. The current legislation prohibits a betting operator from offering in-play betting options via the internet, but this is easily overcome by the masking of an IP address, which is not illegal under any Australian laws. It is also important to realise that many overseas operators actively ignore the draconian Australian in-play laws and actively advertise this product to Australian punters.
The charge in question relates to the man ‘engaging in conduct that would corrupt a betting outcome’. If the man is allowed to place a bet on an overseas bookmakers website on a point by point basis, after the point has finished, then this isn’t corruption of sport or a betting outcome, is it simply bad business from that bookmaker.
The Australian Open has made it clear through its rules and regulations that it is very much an anti-gambling organisation, with all media being banned from betting on events and the Wi-Fi network provided to attendees having blocks in place to all betting websites.
Traders have been thrown out of the Australian Open in the past for ‘courtsiding’ (it is against their rules it seems), but it seems as though the Victorian Police have convinced the organisers that the practise is illegal and that an arrest for ‘courtsiding’ was warranted due to the person gaining ‘financial advantage’. A simple warning, ban from all Grand Slams and media release of the ban would have been the correct move. Now the Australian Open will find their tournament in the headlines for all the wrong reasons.
If we were to interpret the same ruling of the Crimes Act 1958 – Sect 195C which this trader was charged under, the following would be breaking this rule:
– Betting in-play on a horse race at the track
– Betting in-play on a horse race at the TAB (skyracing at these venues have a shorter delay, equal to radio, than normal vision given to Foxtel users)
– Placing a bet on any horse due to ‘mail from your friend’
– Placing a bet on a first goal-scorer market before the start of ANY AFL match when you notice a player heading towards the forward-line when they are meant to start in the back-line
– Calling up your Bookie/Exchange and making the operator wait to put your bet on until the result of the current point has occurred.
There has been no suggestion that any Tennis player was involved in the fixing of a match in this instance, therefore I see no reason why the man in question was arrested. It’s a bad look for Tennis, bad look for our backwards in-play trading rules and most importantly, bad look for our mainstream Media who are running incorrect and ill-informed information about the case this evening.
The man was bailed to appear before the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court on Thursday 16 January.
Read the Victoria Police media release here.
I have included the law by which the man has been charged below for you to try and make sense of.
CRIMES ACT 1958 – SECT 195C
Engaging in conduct that corrupts or would corrupt a betting outcome of event or event contingency.
A person must not engage in conduct that corrupts or would corrupt a betting outcome of an event or event contingency —
(a) knowing that, or being reckless as to whether, the conduct corrupts or would corrupt a betting outcome of the event or the event contingency; and
(b) intending to obtain a financial advantage, or to cause a financial disadvantage, in connection with any betting on the event or the event contingency.
Penalty: level 5 imprisonment (10 years maximum).