A Vision for US Sport and Betting Integrity – Collaboration not Competition

Posted on 30.05.2018

The potential changes to the US sports betting landscape have led to significant debate as to the necessary characteristics of an efficient and effective integrity ecosystem to sit alongside a newly regulated environment. Jake Marsh, Head of Integrity Operations at Perform Group outlines a vision for how US sport and betting can collaborate rather than compete. 

The ongoing evolution of, and experiences from, other regulated betting markets offer a clear pathway to success. In short, participating stakeholders – rights holders, sport governing bodies, regulators, betting operators, integrity bodies, betting content & service providers and other parties –  must accept the obligation to contribute collaboratively in the interests of sport. Operational relationships, co-operation, trust and transparency, crucially catalysed within a non-commercial framework are critical to how the integrity of betting and US sport will be protected on a daily basis.

Perform works with all the stakeholders described above on a 24/7 basis to share intelligence and advise of threats. We live by a fundamental commitment to sport and betting integrity that is at the core of everything we do as a sports business. Whether we are liaising on integrity with a body such as ESSA, an individual operator, for a tennis grand slam, or a rights holder such as the Premier League or La Liga, the collaborative and not-for-profit approach is always the same and demonstrably effective.

There is much to be learned from existing regulated environments for sport betting and we have outlined below our vision for how we believe the US environment can function optimally:

It of course begins with formal documented licensing obligations and processes such as operator due diligence, Know Your Customer (KYC) and Anti-Money Laundering requirements, but extends crucially to how a multitude of stakeholder relationships and areas of responsibility function effectively in practice.

Clear regulatory processes and obligations at every stage are critical, and there needs to be parameters established around stakeholder responsibilities in relation to investigating potential breaches of integrity. In particular, these need to be established between the regulator(s) and the sport governing bodies. Regulators should help empower sport governing bodies by establishing clear and concise direction around what the latter are entitled to by way of information and support from the betting industry. The end result should be to enable sport bodies to have efficient investigation and disciplinary processes. Too often, sport integrity investigation and disciplinary procedures can be held up due to information sharing and jurisdictional issues that a formal multi-stakeholder arrangement can help remove. This not only enhances disciplinary proceedings but can also protect the reputation of both the sport and betting industry. Where clear stakeholder responsibilities are established and combined with proactive collaboration, there is the strong possibility for effective co-operation between the betting industry, regulators and sports bodies to protect integrity.

Further, domestic betting operators must be obliged to report suspicious betting and co-operate in investigations, whether the latter is conducted by the regulator, law enforcement or sport governing body. In support of this obligation, there needs to be clear provision within regulation and sports’ governance to sanction betting related corruption, including match manipulation. Operators should be required to establish effective partnerships and information sharing arrangements with sport governing bodies (and not lip service MoUs), designed specifically to assist sporting bodies and regulators in identifying and investigating cases of sporting corruption involving betting. These processes and the parameters for sharing information need to be clearly defined among stakeholders.

Third party betting content providers & service providers such as ourselves and our competitors should be compelled to contribute to the overall successful functioning of the integrity ecosystem by offering not-for-profit services as an operational imperative. The nature of those services, from standard betting market monitoring to data analysis and insight and through to intelligence sharing will vary; however, all such parties should participate and work together to support the integrity of the betting markets they are powering. Perform are always willing to work with our competitors on integrity provision on the basis that there is no commercial or ownership agenda that will degrade the breadth or quality of information flow.

Often overlooked in the conversation as to an optimal sports betting integrity environment for the US is the quality and integrity of betting data and video operations. At Perform we strongly advocate that there should also be minimum standards on betting content production and distribution. Data content collected without due process introduces significant integrity and Rights Holder reputational risk. Data providers must be able to demonstrate how they minimise the risk of data related betting fraud with controls at every phase from collection through to distribution. The questions of who creates data and other content, how they are trained and monitored, and how and to who that content is distributed are significant ones.

It is also worth noting the importance of neutrality and independence of any organisation working to provide integrity information and to ensure they are able to do so free from commercial or other pressures. The ability to dispassionately provide objective analysis and advice to sport governing bodies and Rights Holders is critical to the overall success of integrity services and thereby to support the governance of sport as effectively as possible.

Perform is an active participant and major supporter in the growing global network of like-minded stakeholders committed to tackling sports betting integrity issues in the collaborative and not-for-profit fashion described here. The US could and should be readily incorporated into this network by way of either legislative process or rights holder choice. It is the view of Perform, and many other industry leaders, that this is by far and away the best and safest option for a newly regulated US betting market.