Drama created over tennis data feeds reaching gamblers first

People standing on blue and green tennis court

The Daily Mail, possibly believing they’ve uncovered the sports scandal, are reporting the scandalous deals data providers make. The British tabloid has revealed their big investigation into data provided by the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) and Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) reaching gambling operators before the general public.

In a report from their SportsMail section, they declare:

“Under the terms of contracts with data companies agreed between the ATP and IMG, and the WTA and StatsPerform, websites owned or funded by bookmakers are permitted to publish live scores ahead of sport’s official channels in the hope fans will be drawn to them and then be tempted to gamble.”

They go on to note that this is a deliberate practice, and suggest that it’s done so as to push the public to use gambling sites to check scores, rather than other sources of data.

“WTA has licensed its live data to StatsPerform to ensure those fans who choose to bet on tennis legally have access to real-time, official WTA scores through licensed betting operators and platform providers,” a WTA spokesperson told the outlet. “We are working on improving the speed of the data on WTA platforms as it is a priority for us.”

“There’s a deliberate delay built in and a clause in the contract stipulating that the scores cannot be published contemporaneously,” a source said. “There is a significant commercial value to having the fastest data, particularly for bookmakers.”

The Daily Mail goes on to mix and match facts to suit their attack on the practice. They note prior studies that suggest Tennis is a fertile ground for corruption, and a recommendation from the “Independent Review of Integrity in Tennis” which suggested an end to the sales of live feed data.

The overall argument of the piece is subtle, but summed up by the comment section that follows: This is an underhanded way the gambling operators are corrupting the sports-loving people of Britain.

Anyone who follows the gambling industry knows better. The real target of corrupt actors aren’t the Caroline Wozniacki’s of the world (who the Daily Mail seems to have found the story from), but rather the low level matches that provide no data to sports betting operators. Syndicates pay players to lose matches and pay them off to make profit, knowing operators without data feeds won’t know the difference.

Business is business. If the WTA, ATP and data feed providers can make a bit more money by providing data to gambling outfits first, they’re going to do just that. The average tennis fan may have to wait 30 seconds to see an update, but operators won’t be caught with their pants down by fans who have better data than them.

An October panel at Betting on Sports Europe Digital made the point best: If there’s a competitive match, people are going to bet on it. Scaring people away from locally regulated operators, provided with the best data, drives the whole activity underground. That’s bad for the sport, home-grown operators, and the public who want to make a bet too.