Tristica Howard, Licensing Manager at Simplebet, warns against sleepwalking into integrity issues ahead of Problem Gambling Awareness Month in the US.
Legalized betting is now an integral part of the sports and media landscape in lots of US states. Where once wagering was something that an individual had to seek out, it now presents itself in the homes and on the phones of millions of Americans on a daily basis.
Many of the betting partnerships, bonus offers, and dedicated TV show segments concern pro sports, of course, but as the New York Times recently pointed out, strong commercial relationships now exist between sportsbooks and the organisers of college sports. It isn’t for me to question either party nor the morality of such commercial ventures; others can have their say.
But as we approach both National Problem Gambling Awareness Month and March Madness in college basketball, we need to ensure we are doing all we can to protect both bettors and vulnerable people in our society. I spent years working in land-based casinos and this country has an admirable heritage in combining commercial success with responsible working practices. But we should acknowledge that online sports betting is still in its infancy and resist sleepwalking into the sort of integrity issues that have plagued other longer established markets around the world. Our pursuit of profitability should never come at the expense of our patrons.
Daylight is always the best disinfectant when it comes to sharp practice and irresponsible activity, and we should call out impropriety and compliance issues ourselves before our detractors do. We will only act as a recruiting sergeant to their ranks if we don’t. Our federal system has promoted state by state legislation when it comes to sports wagering, but industry integrity should unite and energise us collectively.
Heads you win
Sporting integrity is the other side of the same coin when it comes to responsible gambling. We owe it to the sports we bet on as much as the bettors who lay their money down. After all, it impacts a bettor’s ability to enjoy a safe, secure and fair betting experience. And as suppliers we need to play our part just as much as the operators at the consumer-facing end of the equation.
As technology providers, we can act as an extra set of eyes and ears for our operator partners and as another monitoring point on betting trends. We have the tools and systems to not only monitor betting patterns and potential issues, but to ensure restrictions, limits, and safety nets are in place and, most importantly, are up to industry standards.
It is not good enough for suppliers to leave brands to face these issues and address them on their own. It is an industry-wide challenge, and we must collaborate to tackle it. They might not hit the headlines or see millions of dollars change hands, but these are the partnerships that really matter.
Recognizing our role
When it comes to integrity, complacency is the biggest danger. We are fast approaching five years since the repeal of PASPA and it is important that sporting institutions and athletes, be they amateur or professional, have the confidence in their sport to do what they have always done: deliver fantastic sporting entertainment.
For any sporting activity to become a betting event, integrity and trust is non-negotiable. With more than $7.5 billion wagered on legal sports betting in the US alone last year, it is an industry that is growing rapidly. Those numbers will attract those willing to bend the rules or cut corners in player protection and strict integrity checks.
One of the many tools available to all involved in sports betting is the International Betting Integrity Association (IBIA), an independent integrity monitor. As a partner of this association, we can pool our resources and share our expertise with other members, exchanging ideas and solutions with integrity at the heart.
Together we can focus on our goal to maintain fair play in sport, negate corruption in sports betting and ensure our operator partners and their customers can enjoy peace of mind when it comes to wagering. Ultimately, sports bettors want to know that when they are placing a bet, it’s placed in the fairest of conditions, where sporting ability is the only influence on outcome.
If we don’t keep our house in order, regulators will. In its first week alone, Ohio issued more than $1m in fines, while Colorado has also handed down record fines. Massachusetts and Maine are looking at heavily curtailing advertising in upcoming bills and New York is even considering a complete ban.
These should be seen as warning shots across our bows. They clearly show patience is finite if we don’t put responsible gambling and integrity at the heart of all our actions. The future for sports betting in America is so bright, but also fraught with pitfalls if the parties involved put dollars and lifetime values over player protection and security.