Open hires security firm, sets up hotline for players
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."
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press
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