Tennis dominates ESSA suspicious betting reports in 2018

14 February 2019

International betting integrity body ESSA received 267 reports of unusual wagering activity from operator partners in 2018, with tennis responsible for more than half of these cases.

A total of 178 reports were filed in relation to wagering on tennis events around the world, with football some way behind in second place on 52 cases.

Table tennis attracted eight reports in 2018, ahead of esports and basketball, both on seven, while four alerts were generated for beach volleyball and three for indoor volleyball. Ice hockey and badminton followed on two cases each, with horse racing, handball, boxing and bowls only responsible for one report apiece.

The total number of reports remains level year-on-year, with ESSA having looked at 266 suspicious betting cases in 2017.

Europe remains the region of most concern to the integrity body, accounting for 148, or 55%, of the total reports filed over the past year. Spain was responsible for 18 of these cases, closely followed by Italy on 17 cases and then the Czech Republic and Ukraine with 10 each. 

Asia ranks second in terms of suspicious betting reports with 48 cases, 13 of which were located in Turkey, while Africa had a total of 26 cases, almost half coming out of Egypt (12). South America accounted for 23 reports while just 13 cases were located in North America.

However, despite the relatively low number of reports in North America, ESSA secretary general Khalid Ali has said the launch of legalised sports betting in a number of states across the US raises new integrity concerns for the body and it is now working with partners in the country to monitor activities.

“One of the biggest concerns of the betting market opening up in the US is integrity; as a result, we assisted the establishment of the Sports Wagering Integrity Monitoring Association, our American equivalent, with whom we will work closely to combat sports betting related corruption on a global basis,” he said.

Ali also addressed ongoing concerns over integrity in tennis, with the sport having accounted for the majority of suspicious betting cases in ESSA reports for some time now. On average, more than 65% of ESSA alerts have been on tennis.

An independent review panel last year published a report following a three-year study of the sport, in which it set out 12 integrity recommendations. Ali said the recommendation to restrict the sale of data used by operators for in-play markets as being particularly relevant to addressing the sport's integrity concerns.

The Panel proposed removing official data for International Tennis Federation (ITF) events with prize funds of $15,000 (£11,700/€13,300) and $25,000 or lower, but this was altered so that official ITF in-play data for $25,000 matches be retained.

“We are now seeking to engage with the sport on the future of official in-play data for $15,000 matches, and also to assist the smooth implementation of the Panel’s other integrity proposals, which we have generally supported,” Ali said.

Meanwhile, ESSA has revealed that Jon Russell, global head of trading at Betway, is to become its new chair. He will replace Heike Mayer, who has served in the role for the past two years.

Speaking about his new role, Russell said: “The year ahead is expected to pose new challenges and opportunities for the sector and ESSA is setting out a clear plan of action to ensure that its members are best placed to meet those.

“Indeed, being part of a collective global monitoring network has never been of greater importance from both a business and integrity perspective, and I call upon all responsible operators to join us in ESSA.”