Still, reporting of these betting scandals are as always, uninformed. "The Australian" claims that "Syndicate members at the match may have up to 10 seconds to convey the information to their partners before betting closes." I seriously doubt the time difference between those at the event and watching on TV is anywhere near 10 seconds. The same source also suggests that these courtsiders "take advantage of websites that allow bets to be laid on individual events such as whether a player faults on serve" - really? You certainly can't do this on Betfair (and even if you could, liquidity would be almost non-existent) and no bookie that set up this market would allow any substantial amount to be accepted. But in what way does it influence the outcome of a match? It doesn't! In what way is it corrupting the sport? It isn't! But that's not the line they are taking in the Australian media.
I did feel a bit sorry for the guy who was caught; until I saw he was part of Sporting Data Ltd - a company that supposedly is worth £24.5 million! It was perhaps a bit naive of him to courtside in Australia considering this. Firstly, it's a country that has banned in-play betting. Secondly, it's one of the biggest tournaments in the world and it's well known that the ITF and ATP have officials who are specifically trained to catch courtsiders - so doing it on a main court in broad daylight during a high profile match is always a risk. That said, I'm sure he knew the risks and was prepared to take them, especially if flying all the way to Australia. "Quite often these people use small devices which they conceal within their clothing, often they are in special pouches sewn into clothing so these things are well concealed. Then they will simply press on a series of buttons." - reports The Australian. So this man was probably not placing bets at all and someone at Sporting Data in Surrey would've been responding to the button press signal and placing any trades. He got caught and paid the price - though pretty sure he would not have expected talk of jail time!
The man in question has been arrested for "Engaging in activity that would corrupt a betting outcome". Not sure exactly how he was affecting the outcome but newspapers are suggesting he could face up to 10 years imprisonment - bit harsh! Especially as last year, this legislature didn't even exist. A man was caught at last year's event but no arrests were made because there was no law in place. So it seems as though this young man (just 22) may be made an example of to prevent others attempting in future.
I know that courtsiding is something that splits opinion amongst the betting community. Some see it as dishonest and plain cheating. Others see it as just taking advantage of an unusual situation or "loophole". But I'm pretty certain that the vast majority of us would give it a shot if we thought we could make money from it. I'm also certain that we'd all disagree that "Courtsiding is only one step away from contacting players and engaging in more sinister activities" - words direct from an Australian police chief's mouth. Clearly, they take these things far more seriously down-under and rule number one of travelling is "Learn the laws and customs of the country you are visiting". A rap on the knuckles and ticket rebuke in the UK, could be a 10 stretch elsewhere! Though I'm not at all convinced that anything will happen in this case. I don't know the ins and outs of this new legislature in Melbourne but I have the feeling that it's a case of confusing betting crime syndicates (such as the ones recently in the news from Malaysia and Singapore, bribing footballers) with ordinary betting syndicates, such as Sporting Data, which are legitimate businesses that make their money from sports trading - just like the one I traded for a little over a year ago.
My interview with Quant Bubble.com
My Australian Open preview on Betting Expert.com