Sportsbooks in at least two states stopped taking bets on Ukrainian table tennis events after an integrity association alerted regulators of potential match fixing this week.
The Sports Wagering Integrity Monitoring Association sent an alert to New Jersey regulators on Tuesday, warning about concerns over table tennis events in Ukraine, and six specific players.
No Evidence of Match Fixing, but Plenty of Questions
On Thursday, both New Jersey and Colorado gaming regulators suspended betting on all Ukrainian table tennis tournaments. The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement also banned betting on any matches involving Karen Dzhanibekyan, Anastasia Efimova, Ivan Gaysin, Eduard Panichev, Liliia Zaitseva, or Gleb Zotov, regardless of where they are playing.
“While there is not yet any evidence that any match fixing occurred in New Jersey, due to the nature of the alert, the Division is suspending approval for wagering on all table tennis events in the Ukraine, including but not limited to the Setka Cup, WIN Cup, and TT Cup,” read a notice from regulators to sportsbooks which ESPN obtained.
As sports competitions worldwide shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, ping pong became one of the few remaining betting options at sportsbooks and quickly grew in popularity with bettors.
Integrity issues arose almost immediately. On March 30, the Ukrainian Tennis Table Federation urged the Setka Cup to suspend play because of the pandemic. The UTTF threatened players with disqualification from future events, and ultimately disqualified 365 players for continuing to play in Setka Cup matches.
Reports Question Legitimacy of Table Tennis Events
In May, ESPN reported that little information is available regarding the legitimacy of many events taking place in Ukraine and Russia during the pandemic. While organizers provided live-streaming video of many matches, players were competing in undisclosed locations under the auspices of organizations that have stopped updating their websites. Most lack affiliations with national or international table tennis federations.
The Indiana Gaming Commission prohibited all betting on events not sanctioned by the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) or the European Table Tennis Union following the ESPN report. Some other states continue to take bets on unsanctioned events to this day.
Events like Russia’s Liga Pro and the Sekta Cup also feature unusual schedules that appear to go around the clock, consistently offering action for bettors. A June Forbes report on the Sekta Cup found that matches on a typical day begin at 6 am, with the final match starting at 10:50 pm.
Players are regularly competing in new events. The report noted that one player, Aliiev Anar, has played in 62 tournaments and 311 matches since August 2019. Those numbers have since increased to 69 tournaments and 346 matches. Anar boasts a 184-162 record.
For the most part, sportsbooks offer little information on the steps they take to ensure the integrity of these table tennis events.
“The decision to offer a betting market is a collaborative process between us, any third-party providers, and the regulating body in the jurisdiction in which the market is being offered,” a DraftKings spokesperson told ESPN after its May report.