Tennis Match-fixing: A slippery slope for Online Sportsbooks

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The first tennis Grand Slam of the year is underway in Australia. Unfortunately for the ATP, so is very serious discussion suggesting that as many as 16 former top 50 players, as well as one current top 50 have participated in fixing matches.

An eye-opening report was first published at BuzzFeed in collaboration with the BBC analyzing a trove of evidence.

A large portion of the report focuses on old news — the history of Nikolay Davydenko alleging throwing a match which he was cruising through due to an injury withdrawal in 2008, which prompted sports betting exchange Betfair to void all wagers — but very serious questions were raised as to the integrity of the sport.

Betting syndicates in Russia and Italy are specifically named. At least one ATP tour pro reported being offered $50,000 to intentionally lose a match; the offer was made at a local hotel room during a mid-level tournament.

The report also detailed how algorithms have been built allowing for the forensic analysis of irregular shifts in betting markets, combined with unexpected outcomes where player performance is rated as being less likely than 1 in 1,000.

Complaint opened against BetFred
A player filed a complaint with SBR this morning against sports betting site BetFred claiming that three tennis wagers from 23 November 2015 have not been settled on the grounds that the match is under investigation. SBR asked the player to provide more detail on the match in question.

While the ATP may be turning a blind eye to the reports of match fixing in an effort to preserve the sport's integrity, much like how for ages MLB refused to admit the rampant doping going on in its sport, it is clear that in the information age cheaters will be weeded out and discovered — this includes online sports bettors with bad intentions.

Dangers of a Slippery Slope
What online sportsbooks need to be careful about is taking stark positions in relation to how the rest of the sports betting industry settles a bet, or else any low-level tennis match involving no name players can be voided if the house takes a legitimate beating, even with no evidence to suggest foul play. If that were to be the case, the sport of tennis would not be alone in having its integrity questioned.

There needs to be very public and transparent evidence — a "smoking gun" — for an online sportsbook to refuse to honor an accepted wager on the grounds of match fixing.

Bettors who feel that their online sportsbook has taken an unjust position and avoided paying winning bets can submit a sportsbook complaint with SBR.

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