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Is Sports Wagering Regulation and Legalization Leading to More Sports Integrity?

Is Sports Wagering Regulation and Legalization Leading to More Sports Integrity?

May 25, 2023

Is Sports Wagering Regulation and Legalization Leading to More Sports Integrity?

By: Sara Dalsheim

During the debate to legalize sports wagering in the United States opponents claimed that it would lead to increased corruption and match fixing in sports. However, Sportsradar’s annual Betting Corruption and Match-Fixing Integrity Services Report for 2022[1] revealed that the number of suspicious matches has declined in North America. According to the Report the number of suspicious matches in North America declined 25% compared to the year before. While the Report stated that over 99.5% of sporting events have no instances of match-fixing and no one sport had a suspicious match ratio of over 1%, across 12 sports and 92 countries, it was found that 630 suspicious matches were reported in Europe, 240 reported in Asia, 225 reported in South America, 93 reported throughout Africa, and only 24 in North America.

Perhaps the reason behind the decline in North America, is the drastic increase in sports wagering regulation in the United States. There are 36 states (and Washington, D.C.) that have legalized sports wagering, and 27 of those states permit regulated mobile sports wagering. The increase of legalized sports wagering throughout the United States is accompanied by an increase in sports and sports wagering regulation. Athletes, coaches, referees, other individuals professionally associated with sports and their family members are prohibited from participating. State gaming commissions and agencies maintain a watchful eye on the leagues and events for which they have permitted wagering activities.

It is not only state agencies with more eyes on sports integrity but an increase in attention and rules have been released and strictly enforced by the amateur and professional sports leagues/organizations.

As predicted and explained in a 2017 article by the Chief Legal Officer of Genius Sports, Tom Russell, “the introduction of sports betting regulation would afford greater protection to the integrity of sports.”[2] The article highlights evidence which shows that in countries where sports wagering is illegal, there is no transparency or visibility, and they are therefore “ideal” for illicit conduct such as match-fixing. As opposed to regulated and licensed markets, where regulators and sports governing bodies can cooperate to actively supervise wagering, form partnerships for information sharing and investigations, and become the initiators and enforcers for responsible wagering activity.

An example of such joint efforts was evident in the Alabama Crimson Tide’s latest baseball program scandal. On May 1, 2023, the Ohio Casino Control Commission’s executive director issued an emergency order prohibiting any wagers on Alabama’s baseball program after the Commission’s independent monitoring partner provided a report detailing two very large suspicious wagers placed prior to Alabama’s contest versus Louisiana State University. The relevant wager in favor of the Crimson Tide was placed at the sportsbook inside the Cincinnati Red’s ballpark. The wagers were flagged because Ohio sports wagering law prohibits anonymous wagers over $1,000 at brick-and-mortar sportsbooks. It was then determined that the Alabama head baseball coach, Brian Bohannon, was connected to the suspicious wagers.[3] Bohannon was fired three days later and the gaming commissions in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Kansas, and New Hampshire joined in cancelling all possible wagers on Alabama baseball. In Connecticut, all options to bet on Alabama Crimson Tide sports were removed.[4]

Additionally, the NCAA is currently working with a large integrity monitoring service to accumulate and evaluate sports data[5] for bookmakers, national and international sports federations, and media companies. “The national office comprehensive integrity services strategy includes: periodic sports wagering risk assessment of all competitions; pregame and in-game monitoring of regular and postseason competitions; immediate notification if there are suspicious sports wagering activities; enhanced monitoring of game officials; sports wagering educational content development, including anti-match-fixing education sessions free to the membership; and proprietary intelligence and investigation capabilities and services to support NCAA in sports wagering research.”[6]  Through the NCAA monitoring efforts, it was reported that in the last year of nearly 13,000 regular and postseason events 0.25% were flagged for suspicious wagering patterns.[7]

Despite these positive efforts and developments, the media is currently obsessed with releasing stories about athletes that are getting fined or penalized for placing a sports wager.[8] However, what is not as widely reported is that most of these athletes are placing wagers on sports that they have zero affiliation with but are getting penalized because of the strict measures that leagues, such as the NFL, have in place to prohibit any sort of sports wagering from their players when taking place in NFL training facilities.[9]

Although, it cannot be ignored, that (1) North America is the only major region that Sportradar reported a decrease in suspicious matches and a noticeably fewer number of suspicious matches in comparison to the other major regions; and (2) the United States has seen the largest increase in regulation and rules surrounding sports wagering within the past year. It would be foolish to think that these two items are unrelated. As sports wagering continues to be legalized throughout states, and the rules and regulations regarding sports wagering increase, sports fans and industry professionals should further monitor the level of sports integrity.[10]

 


[1] Found at: https://sportradar.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/03/Betting-Corruption-And-Match-Fixing-In-2022.pdf.

[2] Tom Russell, Why Sports Betting Regulation Helps Protect the Integrity of Sports, EGR Global (Jun. 14, 2017), https://www.egr.global/northamerica/opinion/why-sports-betting-regulation-helps-protect-the-integrity-of-sports/.

[3] Cf. Jeremy Rauch, 2 UC Baseball Staff Members Have Been Fired, According to University, Fox19 Now (May 24, 2023, 3:00 PM), https://www.fox19.com/2023/05/24/2-uc-baseball-staff-members-have-been-fired-according-university/?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=snd&utm_content=wxix (detailing the story of a University of Cincinnati Assistance Baseball Coach and Direction of Baseball Operations connection to a player’s parent gambling and not reporting the information to the program, to the directors, to the athletics department, or to the NCAA).

[4] Paul Myerberg, Alabama Baseball Gambling Scandal Reflects New Reality in College Athletics, USA Today (May 12, 2023, 6:14 AM), https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/college/2023/05/12/alabama-baseball-gambling-scandal-college-sports-new-reality/70200887007/.

[5] See Saquandra Heath, NCAA Releases Sports Wagering Survey Data, NCAA Media Center (May 24, 2023, 11:15 AM), https://www.ncaa.org/news/2023/5/24/media-center-ncaa-releases-sports-wagering-survey-data.aspx (evidencing that betting is prevalent among young adults).

[6] Corbin McGuire, As Sports Wagering Grows, NCAA Continues Providing Education, Integrity Services and Research, NCAA Media Center (May 16, 2023, 1:34 PM), https://www.ncaa.org/news/2023/5/16/media-center-as-sports-wagering-grows-ncaa-continues-providing-education-integrity-services-and-research.aspx.

[7] Id.

[8] See David Purdum, Inside the NFL’s Gambling Policy and Uptick in Violations, ESPN (May 22, 2023, 1:12 PM), https://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/37419884/inside-nfl-gambling-policy-uptick-violations.

[9] For further discussion on the NFL’s wagering policy see Steven Eichorn’s recent Ifrah on iGaming blog post found at: https://www.ifrahlaw.com/ifrah-on-igaming/nfl-gambling-policy-can-benefit-from-small-modification/.

[10] For more on this topic see Jake Gray’s recent Ifrah on iGaming blog post regarding ensuring sports integrity in regulated sportsbooks: https://www.ifrahlaw.com/ifrah-on-igaming/how-regulated-sportsbooks-can-ensure-sports-integrity-a-case-study-from-the-recent-ufc-scandal/.

Sara Dalsheim

Sara Dalsheim

Sara Dalsheim’s life-long passion for sports and the law fuels her commitment to assisting all players in the sports betting industry, whether in navigating the ever-evolving regulatory and licensing issues inherent in this burgeoning industry or negotiating operations and sponsorship agreements. Sara advises clients throughout the sports betting and gaming ecosystem on how to structure business partnerships that minimize liability and maximize revenues.

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