A British man facing charges that he illegally relayed information from the Australian Open was allowed to post $9,000 bail Thursday to get his passport back. The man, Daniel Thomas Dobson, promised to return if a judge decided he must face trial for accusations that he violated the state of Victoria's new law against corrupting sports betting. His arrest represents a rare instance of a criminal case involving courtsiding, or the relaying of information about a match faster than it can be transmitted through official channels, which sports officials fear could give bettors a distinct and illegal edge.
Dobson was arrested last week while using a device hidden in his clothing, the police said. They accused him of transmitting scores from a first-round men's match at the Australian Open. A court document released Thursday charged Dobson with "conduct that corrupts or would corrupt a betting outcome."
But his lawyer, David Galbally, said Dobson was not trying to affect the outcome of the match. Dobson's company, Sporting Data, said in a statement that it was legally gathering data with which a complex mathematical formula would be used to predict the victor for its betting clients.
Under a contract with Tennis Australia, the match scores are transmitted instantly from umpires' score pads to more than a dozen legal betting agencies by Enetpulse, a Danish company owned by the sports management company IMG Media.
The issue of data transmission is at the center of a growing awareness among tennis authorities and law enforcement officials that scoring information could be used for illegal purposes. Tennis betting involves millions of dollars almost daily, analysts say. But some businesses argue that the scores are not the sole property of the tournaments and their sponsors, which ordinarily prohibit ticket holders from transmitting the data.
"That's a civil question; that's a question of contract," Galbally said. "That's between you and the event holder. That's not to do with the police, and it's not to do with the criminal law."
The magistrate hearing the case scheduled a meeting in early February and a hearing March 6 before deciding whether to order a trial. Dobson is not required to attend if his lawyers appear on his behalf.
Prosecutors initially asked for a bond as high as 500,000 Australian dollars, or roughly $440,000. They agreed to the lesser amount after Galbally, the lawyer, called the demand "a complete somersault" from earlier offers to allow Dobson to plead guilty to a minor offense that involves no criminal record.
Then, Galbally told the magistrate, Gerard Lethbridge, that Dobson's father, Tim, was a London police detective inspector in the homicide and serious crimes division. With father and son sitting behind him, Galbally said the elder Dobson was "not likely to breach the law."
The prosecutor, Luke Exell, countered that Daniel Dobson was said to be a member of a six-man team visiting sporting events in Australia and New Zealand. He did not indicate the team's purpose but said Dobson had been expelled from a tennis tournament in Auckland, New Zealand, the week before he was arrested at Melbourne Park.
"This is a situation where the court must be assured that he will return to face charges," Exell said. Outside the court, Dobson and his father, who had traveled from London for the hearing, conferred with lawyers who said the two would return to Britain on Monday. David Dobson was instructed not to attend the remaining matches at the Australian Open, which concludes Sunday.
Â© 2014 New York Times News Service