Online action warns betting watchdogs

The sophisticated software systems at major online betting exchange have again proved their value to the wider gambling industry by alerting tennis watchdog officials to suspicious betting action.

The Times tennis blog reported on the incident, which involved a first-round Wimbledon match Tuesday between 109th-ranked Wayne Odesnik of the United States and 30th-ranked Jurgen Melzer of Austria. alerted authorities after the betting exchange staff noticed an unusual spike in action.

A Betfair spokesman said that the online gambling site saw six times the wagers it would normally see on such a match. “Betfair received about $980 000 in wagers on the match," he said. "The average for a first-round match at Wimbledon is less than $163 000.”

Odesnik, who lost to Melzer in the first round of Wimbledon, said he has no connection with an unnamed European online gambling site. Odesnik said he had never been approached about fixing a match. “I know at Wimbledon they have people in betting shops but I have no control over it,” he said. “I’m from the U.S. and if they have been betting on a European site I have no connection with that at all.”

The international tennis authorities are sensitive to the dangers of rigged games and corruption in the sport following the late 2007 gambling scandal in pro tennis following an investigation of matches involving Nikolay Davydenko.

The UK's Daily Mail reports that a single bet of GBP 365 000 is what sounded the alarm for Betfair and the Tennis Integrity Unit: “Reporting what they termed ‘extreme’ gambles on a relatively obscure encounter, they were alerted by a dramatic hardening of the odds in favour of Melzer before and during the match,” the newspaper reported.

Paddy Power and Ladbrokes, two other online betting sites, stopped taking bets an hour before the match began, citing the unusual amount bet on a 3-0 result.

Betfair spokesman, Mark Davies, said he doesn’t suspect any wrongdoing, but the serious money backing Melzer to win in straight sets was enough to prompt an investigation. The Austrian won 6-1, 6-4, 6-2.

After the match, when asked about the suspicious betting, Odesnik said he knew nothing of it, according to the Guardian newspaper. “It’s only my second time playing here, I’m young, I’m here to play,” he said. “I’m here with my coach and friends and I would never do anything like that to jeopardise my future.”

The Guardian also reported that Odesnik had been spotted the night before in a London pub (the player said he was there “for dinner”). But Odesnik confirmed he was not fully fit. “I had a little bit of an injury in my last grass-court tournament this year,” he said.

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