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Open hires security firm, sets up hotline for players

8/23/2007 - Tennis

The U.S. Open hired a security firm run by a former New York
City police commissioner, set up a whistle-blower hotline and is
taking other steps to make sure it doesn't wind up with a gambling
scandal.

In the wake of a recent betting investigation in tennis and a
former NBA referee's admission he gambled on games he officiated,
the U.S. Tennis Association decided "to see if there's something
more that we can do," USTA senior director of communications Chris
Widmaier said Thursday.

"We're taking this very seriously," Widmaier said by telephone
from New York. "Do we think there's a problem? Actually, we don't.
But we want to make sure we're as equipped and have as much
knowledge of this issue as we can. At the end of the day, this goes
to the integrity of the game."

The U.S. Open, the year's last Grand Slam tournament, begins
Monday. Security firm SafirRosetti -- which has worked with horse
racing's New York Racing Association, as well as various
professional sports leagues and clubs -- will have an investigative
team on site during the two-week tournament.

"We specialize in monitoring and integrity ... to make sure
there's no illegal activity involved, to make sure there's no
organized crime presence and, in this case, to make sure there's no
wagering" by players or others involved in the Open, SafirRosetti
chairman and CEO Howard Safir said in a telephone interview.

Safir was New York's police commissioner from 1996-2000, appointed
by Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.

"Everybody is, of course, aware of the recent referee scandal
in the NBA," Safir said, "and that makes everybody
supersensitive."

Former NBA ref Tim Donaghy faces up to 25 years in prison after
pleading guilty this month to two felony charges.

The men's tennis tour, meanwhile, is looking into suspicious
betting on a match involving Nikolay Davydenko, a U.S. Open
semifinalist last year and seeded fourth this year. A British
online gambling company voided all bets on a match in Poland
between Davydenko and No. 87-ranked Martin Vassallo Arguello after
receiving about $7 million in wagers, 10 times the usual amount.

"Players are concerned about it, because they certainly don't
want it to happen," U.S. Davis Cup captain Patrick McEnroe said.
"They would like it to be fully investigated and get to the bottom
of it and make sure it doesn't happen again."

The Davydenko-Arguello match also led the four Grand Slam
tournaments to confer with the International Tennis Federation and
the men's and women's pro tours about establishing a unified
antigambling program.

The USTA's recent moves were "prompted by both -- Donaghy and
Davydenko," Widmaier said.

That includes the hotline for players or others to anonymously
provide tips about possible gambling policy violations.
Antigambling policies and penalties will be addressed in e-mail
messages and meetings for players and officials.

Also, signs describing the Open's gambling policy have been
posted in locker rooms, player lounges, training rooms and
elsewhere around the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

Under the heading, "REMINDER," the signs read: "The
participation in or aiding and abetting, directly or indirectly, of
any form of gambling or betting involving tennis is strictly
prohibited. The USTA has a zero tolerance policy on gambling or
betting involving tennis, and any violation of such policy will
result in immediate disciplinary action."