On the final Friday of January when most sports and Shakira fans were making last-minute preparations for their Super Bowl celebrations, two stakeholders engaged in a heated but amicable debate in Colorado.
Amid the high stakes, the participants Seth Young of PointsBet USA and Marquest Meeks of Major League Baseball, maintained their professionalism despite adopting opposing positions on a controversial subject. Near the completion of an 80-minute working group session, organized by the Colorado Department of Revenue’s Division of Gaming, the two offered strong viewpoints on a proposed regulation pertaining to the designation of an independent integrity monitor.
According to proposed Colorado sports betting rules, the monitor will assist the Division of Gaming in identifying cases of “suspicious wagering activity.” Operators will also be required to submit an annual report to the Division describing their integrity monitoring protocols, along with summarizing instances of unusual and suspicious betting activity. (Conversation did not dip into the deepening crisis of public confidence in MLB’s own ability — amid the fallout from the Houston Astros sign stealing scandal — to preserve the integrity of the game.)
For Meeks, legal counsel at MLB, timing is of the essence. When a case involving suspicious betting activity transpires, Meeks believes that professional sports leagues should be notified by the Division, the monitor, or the sportsbooks as expeditiously as possible. A swift response might make the difference between preventing a corrupt scheme before it is effectuated and conducting an after the fact investigation, he told the working group.
The consideration of Rule 8, Sports Wagering Integrity, is one of several sports betting rules that will be reviewed by the Colorado Limited Gaming Control Commission.
During the Jan. 31 session, a few stakeholders made the distinction between non-profit, independent integrity monitors such as the Sports Wagering Integrity Monitoring Association (SWIMA) and commercial operators that provide integrity services.
As MLB’s integrity monitor, Sportradar US conducts fraud alerts for the league, Meeks noted. Sportradar also has exclusive rights to distribute the NFL’s official league data to U.S. sportsbook operators and has agreements with the NBA and NHL. Another provider, Genius Sports, has integrity partnerships with the PGA Tour and the XFL.
Young, chief innovation officer at PointsBet USA, is wary of any efforts from the leagues to unduly exert their influence on regulators.
“The data that we choose to share commercially, should be shared commercially, the data that is mandated that we share with the state should be controlled by the state,” said Young, Chief Innovation Officer at PointsBet USA. “We’re not saying we’re opposed to integrity monitoring by any means.”
Comparisons with Indiana
The provision on integrity monitoring draws parallels to a similar set of regulations in Indiana. While the entity that is providing integrity services remains unclear, Indiana Gaming Commission rules stipulate that any independent integrity monitor must obtain a sports wagering service provider license before operating statewide. By the same token, Colorado plans to require monitors to obtain a vendor minor license before they can operate across the state.
William J. Pascrell III is a partner and strategic advisor with New Jersey-based Princeton Public Affairs Group. Pascrell does not believe it is in the best interest of states to require operators to purchase data from a certain operator. Pascrell represents one client in the gaming industry that uses multiple sources for data.
“I don’t like the Indiana model from that perspective where there is one sourced integrity monitor,” Pascrell told COBets.
Unlike several states with proposed data requirements, Colorado does not have a statutory mandate that requires operators to purchase official league data. At Princeton Public Affairs, Pascrell is colleagues with George Rover, chief integrity officer at SWIMA.
Two other stakeholders, Bet 365 U.S. Legal Counsel Robert Moncrief and Circa Sports Strategic Manager Mike Van Ermen, weighed in during the debate. Moncrief, a former Deputy Attorney General for the State of New Jersey, noted that there isn’t a single integrity monitor in the U.S., or perhaps the world, that reviews every single transaction made by a sportsbook each day. Van Ermen, meanwhile, echoed Young’s concerns that sportsbook data could be monetized without their knowledge.
Dan Hartman, director of the department’s Gaming Enforcement Division, reiterated that the data provided to the monitor will be used for integrity purposes only and will not be monetized by a third-party.
An announcement on the entity that will be designated as the Division’s independent integrity monitor is not expected for at least the next few weeks.
“The Division wants to get the rules and regulations in place first. Once those are finalized, they plan to start the procurement process for integrity monitoring,” a Department of Revenue spokesperson told COBets.
Colorado intends to greenlight licensed operators to begin offering approved, legal sports wagering platforms by May 1.