Online betting agency Sportsbet.com.au has stopped offering odds and refunded all bets on the punctuality of Melbourne’s trains, after operator Metro demanded the market be removed “in the interests of public safety”.

In a letter sent to Sportsbet boss Cormac Barry, Metro Trains CEO Andrew Lezala said the bets could provide a lure to gamblers looking to rort the market for financial gain at the expense of commuters.

Sportsbet drew public attention earlier this week for offering the novelty bets, which allowed punters to wager on whether the oft-maligned company would meet monthly timeliness and service requirements.

“We are concerned that the new betting market could provide a financial incentive for members of the public to interfere with the safe and timely running of train services,” said Lezala in the letter, adding that the “light-hearted” nature of the offering could have “serious consequences”.

Lezala signed off saying the company reserved its rights to seek legal damages.

The NT-based Sportsbet informed Crikey this afternoon that it had removed the market from its website today after receiving the request.

Spokesperson Haydn Lane told Crikey that just $71 had been staked on its service delivery market, with $692 bet on whether the trains would run on time — a vast majority of which was being held for Metro beating its 88% requirement.

“What needs to be understood is the markets were on the overall delivery and punctuality of the Metro network over a calendar month, not whether an individual train would or would not arrive on time,” Lane said.

“Given the volume of train services per month someone would need to repeatedly cause widespread disruption to affect the statistics in the slightest. Given the low amounts wagered on these markets it’s laughable to suggest there’s a financial incentive for anyone to do this.”

Metro spokeswoman Geraldine Mitchell told Crikey the measure was a sensible one:

“We think it’s self-evident as to why we asked Sportsbet to withdraw this market and thankfully, common sense has prevailed.”

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