US Open used Web filtering to prevent online gambling

USTA took security measure to retain "squeaky clean" image

The US Open tennis tournament provides network access for the players, guests and media, but this past summer the association running the event took an extra security step to make sure access wasn't too open.

"We didn't want people at the event to have access to gambling sites," says Larry Bonfante, CIO of the US Tennis Association (USTA), about the decision to add Web-filtering to the network supporting the event at the Billie Jean Tennis Center at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, in New York.

Bonfante is proud the sport is considered "above board" and "squeaky clean," and filtering out access to gambling sites is a proactive step taken to head off any trouble, he says.

More than a year ago, there were rumblings that a low-seeded tennis player might have thrown a match; that rumor had USTA management and its IT department mulling the issue of gambling. With more than 21,000 individuals credentialed to be at the US Open -- with secure network access available to them in addition to their issued site credentials -- the question was whether it would be a good step to prevent access to online gambling in general.

"Even if it's just the perception, we just didn't want people to have access to known gambling sites, so we bolted it down," Bonfante says. The USTA did that using St. Bernard Software's iPrism Web filter, which the association chose for its ease of installation and flexibility in reporting, using it at both the US Open and at USTA headquarters.

This year, with Web-filtering installed at the tennis tournament, the USTA determined there were 17,000 attempts to reach online gambling sites during the course of the two-week event. "What the rationale there was for all this, we don't know," Bonfante says.

Around the world, particularly in Europe and Asia, there may be different legal acceptance of online gambling, Bonfante says. But as far as the USTA is concerned, blocking online gambling sites has simply become a "business requirement" to keep the tennis event, which this year was attended by 720,000 people in all, in good showing.

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Ellen Messmer

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