ESSA Betting Integrity Update: 72 Cases of “Suspicious” Betting Activity During 2017 Q3

The European Sports Security Association (ESSA), has released its quarterly report on suspicious betting activities as monitored by the group’s member operators. The latest numbers showed that during the just completed third quarter (Q3) of 2017, a total of 72 instances of suspicious activity were noted, with more than half of the total coming from the globe’s most troublesome sport in that regard, professional tennis.

According to a press statement released yesterday by Brussels-based ESSA, 46 of the 72 suspicious instances were related to professional tennis, which has been plagued by dozens of revelations involving match-fixing, betting irregularities and other problems over the past several years. Matches being fixed by professional tennis players is horrendous enough, but the sport’s deep problem with certain gambling elements goes far behind that.

Just last month, as an example, prominent US sports site ESPN reported on the arrest of an Estonian man at tennis’s US Open in New York on trespassing charges connected to courtsiding, a practice in which gambling syndicates attempt to take advantage of extremely short-term arbitrage opportunities during in-match betting. The US Open evicted 20 courtsiders from its grounds during the two-week tournament, and the arrested Estonian was one of eight kicked out during the first half of the 2017 event. His arrest was due to his violating his ban from the property issued the year before. More courtsiders were evicted during the second half of the 2017 US Open, though the tourney’s operators haven’t specified how many.

Courtsiding is prominent around the globe, and it’s not limited to tennis; cricket is another sport with in-match wagering opportunities that make it susceptible to the practice. However,  in an oddity, no suspicious cricket betting patterns were noted by ESSA member companies during the past three months.

Besides the 46 troublesome tennis wagering instances, ESSA’s latest update identified 26 others. Football and table tennis were tied in second with eight instances each, basketball offered four, and two suspicious instances occurred in connection with badminton, snooker and volleyball wagering.

The 72 instances identified in Q3 of 2017 were an uptick. ESSA’s member sites had identified 80 such instances combined during the first two quarters of 2017.

ESSA’s Secretary General Khalid Ali stated, “The figures for this quarter again demonstrate the ongoing
threat that faces the regulated betting sector and our sports and regulatory authority partners. ESSA
has redoubled its efforts to meet that challenge and invested in a number of key initiatives and
activities. Partnership working remains at the heart of that approach, with our recent betting integrity
event and general stakeholder engagement programme a testament to that.”

ESSA communicates its findings to both the sports organizations involved and to various national and international law-enforcement agencies, up to and including INTERPOL. The group was created back in 2005 by “concerned bookmakers” as certain suspicious wagering activities showed signs of increasing, particularly in the online age.

ESSA currently lists 25 books and industry organizations as corporate members, including 888Sport, ABB, Bet365, Bet-at-home.com, Betclic, Betdaq, Betsson, BetStars, BetVictor, Betway, bwin, Expekt, Fonbet, Gamesys, Interwetten, Ladbrokes Coral, PaddyPower Betfair, SkyBet, SportingBet, SportingIndex, Sportium, StanleyBet, Stoixibet GR, Unibet, and William Hill.

A portion of ESSA’s mission statement reads as follows:

ESSA represents many of the world’s biggest regulated sports betting operators, serving over 40 million consumers in the EU alone. Concerned regulated bookmakers created ESSA in 2005 to monitor betting markets and alert sporting bodies and national regulators to suspicious betting patterns. The goal was, and is, to protect consumers from potential fraud caused by manipulating sporting events. ESSA helps to combat this with evidence-based intelligence it provides to sporting bodies and regulators.

Every year, our members invest over €50m in compliance and internal security systems in order to help combat fraud. They also give back to sport and society by spending €400m on sponsorship around the world – €250m of that in Europe alone. This increases substantially when advertising and photo and video-streaming rights are taken into consideration. ESSA and its members also co-fund an education programme on gambling with EU Athletes that reaches out to 15,000 athletes/players across at least ten different sports in 13 EU countries.

ESSA’s latest release also noted that the group “holds positions on match-fixing and betting policy forums at the European Commission, Council of Europe and the IOC. It is driving a number of important initiatives aimed at addressing match-fixing and is currently involved in four anti-match-fixing projects, having recently hosted an international betting integrity conference at Lords Cricket Ground in London attended by over 150 senior officials from sports bodies, regulatory authorities, policymakers and other key stakeholders.”

As ESSA notes, a copy of the group’s full Q3 2017 integrity report can be found at http://www.eu-ssa.org/wp-content/uploads/QR3-2O17-WEB.pdf.

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