The panel discussion “Integrity in Sports and Betting” was one of the most pertinent panels at this year’s SBC Summit North America. News of college baseball cheating scandals is brewing. US Integrity’s CEO Scott Sadin spoke to the following esteemed group about the state of integrity, what it encapsulates and what innovations are coming up.
Leonardo Villalobos MLBCounsel for Sports Betting and Compliance
Alexandra Roth – NBA Senior Associate Counsel – League Governance & Policy
Stacie stern. Underdog fantasy Vice President of Government Affairs and Partnerships
Kelly Pracht, CEO and co-founder of nVenue
The responses revealed that integrity has a wide range of applications.
Integrity is an expression that refers to security and optics
Stern said, “I believe, from an operators perspective, integrity is the knowledge of the customer that the data they are seeing is accurate, and that they are on a platform which is serving honest, true, and accurate data.”
Roth reiterated that integrity does not only mean having a safe betting experience, but that users understand that it is secure.
“Optics is right next to [integrity]. “We can’t live in a world where people think that our game is unfair or nefarious,” she said.
Villalobos said that the problems some people think are problems, such as match-fixing are in fact outliers compared to what leagues and operators deal with every day.
“I don’t think match fixing is a good idea. The common understanding might be that someone is trying to fix an entire game. But I think it’s more realistic for baseball or basketball, where you can fix individual moments in the game.
He added, “It is the perceived integrity, the integrity of betting markets and the integrity of game itself.”
Pracht explains the perception of cheating, focusing on in-game betting.
Even in the stadium, cheating is very difficult when it’s pitch-by-pitch. We tried to cheat the system. “When I speak about innovation, we are trying to design ways to beat ourselves,” said she.
The scope of sports leagues is a challenge
Over the last five years, the importance of integrity for leagues has increased exponentially. It now extends beyond monitoring big stars and the most publicized games. The education of groups such as the NBA G League or MiLB is an enormous undertaking that goes beyond a simple session at the beginning of preseason.
Villalobos noted that because baseball and basketball are played internationally, there is a different learning curve to be experienced by non-Americans. He gave Central Americans as an example. These players are used walking to the betting shop in their neighborhood and placing a wager. Roth acknowledged that the international scope of leagues complicates matters.
It was 15 years ago that you could not even mention gambling games. It was completely forbidden. It’s now a part of our world. You have to adapt your thinking to ensure that everyone understands that NBA betting is still on the third rail. It’s a major project to ensure that the education program is reaching a wider audience.
Roth explained that the NBA encourages people to ask more questions. The league can nip problems in the early stages by allowing players to ask questions, and not punishing those who do.
Unsung heroes in integrity monitoring
Stern stated that the more data operators have, the better they can detect issues. She also pointed out that a strong department of customer service is one way to monitor the integrity.
“Really establishing relationships with users and customers is important, because it’s probably your most powerful tool. If there’s a concern about integrity, you can reach out and ask questions quickly. Hey, you’re okay, what is going on? This bet caught my eye and I can tell pretty quickly whether something is amiss. Stern said, “I think that customer service is not used to its full potential.”
Roth also suggested that the betting limits as a tool for integrity are not credited enough.
Limits are an important tool for integrity, but I think they’re undervalued. In the micro-betting world, I believe that lower limits help with concerns about addiction and people spending too many dollars. It also helps to maintain integrity because the incentives for doing something wrong are reduced if you have less money at stake. It is better to engage as a repeat business.”
Villalobos believes regulators play a crucial role in the process. This is especially true for DFS firms operating in states that have a limited gambling scope.
He said that one of his challenges with fantasy was that the regulatory space is still underdeveloped. We try to build good relationships with the regulators, especially in states that have no clear laws or where sports betting may not be legal yet. There is a vacuum and no one you can contact if there were any integrity concerns with a fantasy games that took place in the state.
One member of the panel said that the recent incidents were a good thing because it was an opportunity to show people what can happen when they cheat or try to get insider information.
“One thing that I find interesting, and at least from the standpoint of US Integrity, is that we found that the more we’ve revealed that has been made public in the last five year post-PASPA the more ammunition we have to scare people,” said the moderator Sadin.
It was evident that all stakeholders take integrity very seriously. Also, it was obvious that the tech advancements and increased data would only refine detection. It is difficult to tell the difference between someone who has inside information and a winning better, but the combined efforts of integrity services and leagues as well operators and regulators can help.