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Volume 21 No. 34
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ATP Tour takes stand on gambling

Memo says sponsorships are banned for tournaments

A major sports organization is making a big move in the gambling sector, but not the one that might be expected.

 

Ironically, just weeks after sports gambling was legalized by the Supreme Court, a couple of states began taking bets and other leagues began discussing sponsorship opportunities in earnest, the ATP World Tour told tournaments to stop taking gambling sponsorships, according to an email obtained exclusively by SportsBusiness Journal.

 

Tennis has been hit with match-fixing scandals, especially on the lower rungs of the sport. The major organizations in the sport agreed to abide by the recommendation of a future report known as the Independent Review of Integrity in Tennis, an interim version of which earlier this year called for a ban on gambling sponsorships. The ATP is making its move before the final report is issued in the fall.

 

“The Independent Review Panel on Integrity in Tennis has recommended in its interim report that tennis governing bodies and tournaments should not accept gambling sponsorships, as is currently the practice with players,” Chris Kermode, ATP executive chairman and president, wrote in the email to tournament directors. “Effective immediately and until further notice, ATP World Tour and Challenger tournaments are prohibited from entering into, renewing or extending a sponsorship arrangement with any company or person associated with betting on tennis.”

The ATP declined to comment. A source close to the tour said the move is a recognition of the likely final recommendation to ban gambling sponsorships, as well as to eliminate the double standard of allowing such deals for events but not for players, who have long been banned from such arrangements.

 

The move affects 11 ATP events in Europe and Australia that have gambling sponsorships, while the report could also impact the Australian Open, a non-ATP event, which has a sponsorship from bookmaker William Hill. Of course, the ATP decision also will preclude U.S. events from now securing such deals.

 

The “marketing spend of major betting operators is a significant part of their P&L and will surely expand in the U.S. with the market opening — as such any decision by sports to prohibit betting sponsorships could have a material revenue impact,” Laila Mintas, deputy president of SportRadar US, wrote in an email.

 

SportRadar acts as a bridge between sports entities and betting houses, buying the data from one and selling it to the other. The tennis report decried SportRadar’s deal with the International Tennis Federation to sell the data for the minor leagues of the sport, contending that doing so fueled the rise in corruption. SportRadar denies that conclusion.

 

The WTA Tour currently bans gambling sponsorships for players. There is no such ban for tournaments but in an email referring to WTA CEO Steve Simon, spokesperson Heather Bowler wrote, “Steve does not believe in it.”

 

A representative of the U.S. Open, which like the other majors is not part of either tour, wrote in an email, “We will not accept any gambling sponsorships.”