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French Open under surveillance

Translated Thursday 5 June 2008, by Maud Gillet

In the past fortnight, the French Tennis Federation (FFT) has designed a plan to track down potential online punters (Amer: gamblers) operating within the Roland Garros stadium.


French Open under surveillance.

In the past fortnight, the French Tennis Federation (FFT) has designed a plan to track down potential online punters operating within the Roland Garros stadium.

With the French Open under way, the Federation has set out to fight yet one more battle against online betting. The federation fought a similar battle last November, when it organised the Paris Masters held in the Bercy stadium, for which it designed a « preventive plan tackling risks (of corruption and match fixing - editor’s note) caused by online bets. According to the Federation’s estimates, “the total money bet on the Bercy tournament ranges between 500 million and one billion euros, with total bets on final and semi-final matches amounting to 15 million euros per match.” As the prestigious French Open is one of the four Grand Slam tournaments, the governing body of French tennis is concerned that online betting may escalate.

You may not notice it when wandering down the lanes and across the stands of the Roland Garros stadium, but this sporting venue at Métro Porte d’Auteuil is under maximum surveillance. A while ago, the French tennis federation conducted an awareness campaign reminding the public that betting within the stadium is forbidden. It also produced a chart signed by certified individuals (players, FFT staff, journalists); but now the federation is adopting a more radical approach. In other words, security staff and umpires have joined forces to catch out anyone in breach of the ban.

Jean-François Vilotte, the FFT’s president, makes clear that “anyone using a laptop to register bets from the stadium – which has occurred in a few tournaments – will be reminded of the rules and will be asked to leave.” Should we conclude that laptops are banned inside the Roland Garros stadium? The answer is “if you are seen typing away at your keyboard, grounds staff will check what you are doing”. As for mobile phones: “We can’t closely watch everyone and risk breaching individual liberties, but we’ll be on the look-out.”

In keeping with this pledge of vigilance, “every match is recorded so it can be watched again should a doubt arise or a claim be made.” Additionally, within two groups of experts, one team scrutinizes randomly chosen recorded matches while the other team combs through online betting websites for signs of suspicious bets. Lastly, specialist software is used to analyse what goes on in such websites and to relate the collected data to the way in which matches have unfolded, so as to put a finger on potentially fraudulent bets.

Nicolas Guillermin

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