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Sportsbet responds strongly to tennis match fixing claims

SPORSTBET.COM.AU chief executive officer has come out swinging over the recent allegations of match fixing in the tennis world.

This year’s Australian Open has been marred by revelations of historic match fixing claims, with several players currently competing in the grand slam alleged to have been on the radar of the Tennis Integrity Unit, charged with keeping the game pure.

The bookie’s CEO Cormac Barry said the allegations of match fixing in world tennis were troubling, but not surprising and he urged Australian policy makers to remove the incentive for Australian punters to bet with offshore wagering operators as a key first step in tackling the problem.

“Australian licensed bookmakers are the gate keepers for integrity in Australian sport,” Barry said.

“Sportsbet works hand in hand with Australian sporting bodies and law enforcement agencies to protect the integrity of sport and mitigate the risk of gambling related corruption.

“Sportsbet uses a myriad of tools to monitor wagering activity and any suspicious betting behaviour is immediately reported to the relevant sporting body or law enforcement agencies.

“However, Australians are forecast to bet $2.3 billion a year by 2020 with overseas wagering operators who do not share suspicious betting activity.

“This failure to share suspicious betting activity is providing significant opportunities for corrupt behaviour to flourish.”

Barry appears to be using the betting scandal as more evidence of the need for change in online gambling law, with the recent review handed to the Federal Government by former New South Wales Premier Barry O’Farrell.

Federal Assistant Minister for ­Social Services Alan Tudge, who will consider the review, and he told News Limited “Mr O’Farrell has ­delivered a balanced report based on consultations and the available evidence”.

“It will of course be influential in how we proceed.

“The gambling companies have strong views but we need to make decis­ions in the interest of all Australians, including ensuring that sports integrity is not compromised and that we don’t create even more gambling problems.”

Betting companies are currently banned from offering live bets online once an event has started, although WilliamHill.com.au first managed to evade that by using its controversial in-play feature, which allows mobile phone users to place their bets online, provided their microphone is turned on their phone. Other bookies have followed in their foot steps, but the consensus is these laws need to be changed to allow punters to place live bets online, with the argument that the law was outdated.

The Sportsbet CEO went on to say providing a level playing field for Australian licensed bookmakers to compete would reduce the temptation for Australian punters to bet with the offshore wagering operators.

“We need to be able to offer a similar suite of products – such as in-play betting – to ensure Australians who choose to bet do so in a safe and regulated environment,” Barry said.

“Any commentary that Australian licensed bookmakers offering in-play betting will have negative impact on sports integrity is simply wrong.

“In fact, it will enhance it as it will be conducted in a regulated environment where sports integrity is paramount.

“It is critically important we get this right because fraudulent betting undermines public confidence in the integrity of sport, sporting events and the markets offered by betting agencies such as Sportsbet.”

Retired Australian star Lleyton Hewitt, amid the emotion and adulation from fans, was also forced to defend his name after he was linked to the match fixing claims.

The former World Number One, who played his last professional game on Rod Laver Arena – a straight sets loss to number eight seed David Ferrer – said the claims were “absurd”.

“I think it’s a joke to deal with it. Obviously, there’s no possible way. I know my name’s now been thrown into it,” Hewitt said.

Hewitt’s name was published among 16 others as allegedly being involved in match fixing, the names garnished from secret documents obtained by the BBC and BuzzFeed.

“I don’t think anyone here would think that I’ve done anything (like) corruption or match-fixing. It’s just absurd,” Hewitt said.

“For anyone that tries to go any further with it, then good luck. Take me on with it.

“Yeah, it’s disappointing. I think throwing my name out there with it makes the whole thing an absolute farce.”

World Number One and Australian Open tournament favourite Novak Djokovic has also claimed he was approached to fix a game, a request that he says was met with a big fat “no”.