Genius Sports: Why data is key to integrity in US sports betting

The overturning of PASPA this week has meant that methods of ensuring integrity in US sports betting will once again be thrust under the spotlight.

SBCAmericas spoke to Tom Russell, Director of Legal and Regulatory Affairs at Genius Sports, about why data can play a pivotal role in not only ensuring integrity is maintained, but also in harmonising the relationship between betting operators and the major US sports leagues.  

SBCAmericas: How important could access to accurate detailed data be when it comes to ensuring integrity within the US sports betting market?

Tom Russell: Regulated betting markets afford far greater levels of transparency, accountability and cooperation which are crucial elements in the fight against match-fixing and betting-related corruption.

The best way to protect US sports integrity is to demand that sportsbooks use official data as part of their licensing requirements. That way, every bet that is struck can be time stamped and monitored to help to identify any potential abnormalities in the betting market and provide much needed evidence in the case of an investigation into potential match fixing incidents.

SBCAmericas: Could the use of data help mend the relationship between American leagues and betting operators?

Tom Russell: Cooperation between sports governing bodies and licensed sportsbooks is fundamental to the success and sustainability of the US sports betting market.

In regulated betting markets around the world, licensed sportsbooks have been using official data, issued directly from the sports, for a number of years. This is because official data is the fastest, most accurate and reliable data that enables sportsbooks to create the best betting products.

Providing state licensing requirements aren’t unnecessarily restrictive on the sportsbooks, the use of official data can act as an area of common interest to foster cooperation and communication between the two key stakeholders.

SBCAmericas: We have seen integrity in English football grow because of the use of data, can American Leagues replicate the systems that are used in England?

TR: A number of forward thinking leagues in the US are already using similar systems to those adopted by Football DataCo, the official data rights holder of the English and Scottish leagues and cup competitions.

Both Major League Baseball and the PGA TOUR have proactively invested in integrity programs to help safeguard their competitions, including cutting-edge bet monitoring technology which uses predictive algorithms to identify anomalies in betting patterns across regulated and unregulated global betting markets.

The PGA TOUR launched a new Integrity Program at the start of this year with the explicit aim to “maintain integrity and prevent and mitigate betting-related corruption” across their competitions. This program combines round-the-clock protection from bet monitoring with an e-learning module which educates players, coaches and officials around the rules, expectations and potential consequences associated with betting-related corruption.

SBCAmericas: In order to ensure integrity, the leagues have called for limited markets to be available on matches. Does the use of a wealth of data ensure that limiting markets isn’t necessary?

TR: Integrity and the transparency of competitions are central to the success of both the sports and sports betting industries. All measures that could possibly tackle the threats posed by match-fixing and betting-related corruption should be explored and encouraged.

Restricting markets that could potentially be more susceptible to manipulation such as red or yellow cards and throw-ins has been deemed an effective measure by some regulators. However, at the same time, it is also important that the number of restrictions on licensed sportsbooks doesn’t become excessive and inadvertently fuel the popularity of the illegal market through which $150bn is currently wagered every year in the US. (AGA reference)

SBCAmericas: In such a big market, with so many sporting events can you detail some of the challenges with regards to correlating accurate worthwhile sports betting data?

TR: In-game betting now accounts for over 75 per cent of many UK sportsbooks’ revenues. With hundreds of markets and outcomes being processed every second and millions of pounds in wagers at stake, there is little or no margin for error.

Official data is the fastest, most accurate and reliable data available as it is collected in venue by highly trained statisticians who are accredited by the relevant governing body. Furthermore official data can power a highly engaging live betting product for a sportsbook while enabling them to have complete faith in its veracity.

Equally, it provides a single, verifiable source of information that is sanctioned by the leagues to provide US consumers with utmost confidence in a nascent, transparent and well regulated betting market.  In addition it provides regulators with an invaluable opportunity to tackle the illegal market by giving licensed operators a huge competitive advantage in terms of state of the art in game betting products.