20 August, 2023
Via AP – Las Vegas NV – John Copenhaver, a junior tight end for North Carolina, receives a group text message from his university informing him of the most recent sports betting scandal or emphasizing the significance of adhering to regulations prohibiting sports betting.
Every day, it is drilled into our minds, he said.
Schools believe they have no alternative. Athletic departments and conference offices are paying close attention to the spread of legalized sports betting, as well as to some early controversies. All major conferences employ independent wagering monitors to ensure that their athletes comply with the rules and to identify those who do not.
All of this indicates that the athletes’ confidential information — birthdays, addresses, Social Security numbers, and cellphone numbers — is utilized differently than the information provided by their fellow students. Some combination of these details may alert a wagering monitor that something is amiss.
In the past few months, scandals at Alabama, Iowa, and Iowa State have underscored the need for universities to keep a close watch on the sports wagering market.
More than a dozen current and former Iowa and Iowa State athletes and staff members are facing criminal charges, and the Cyclones may begin the upcoming football season without their starting quarterback.
“I have learned a great deal about gambling in the past two months,” said Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz. “I never gave it much thought, other than the fact that we signed a form, which was probably the same form we signed when I was playing.” Currently, we live in a very different universe.”
UNLV has long prioritized educating athletes about the dangers of wagering due to its location in the nation’s betting capital. Doug Brumfield, the junior quarterback, stated that it is among the first topics the school discusses with its athletes. Due to the fact that he plays a prominent position, Brumfield has received direct communications on social media inquiring about the lineup. He added that the school does an excellent job of “keeping us away from such things.”
He established U.S. Integrity in Henderson, Nevada, and has already signed up more than 150 clients, including the SEC, Big 12, and Pac-12. Similar agreements exist between the Big Ten and Atlantic Coast Conference and Sportradar.
“I believe we were fortunate early on because no one was really focusing on compliance or integrity products,” Holt said.
U.S. Integrity receives athlete and team staff information from a client school or conference through a ProbiBet-encrypted program; Holt stated that some clients upload the identities of those who are not permitted to wager, which are then provided to sportsbooks.
“By the time it leaves their server, it is only a hash of letters, numbers, and symbols,” he said. “We do the same thing on the sportsbook operator’s side, and then we can compare the two hashes to look for matches.”
A spokesperson for the NCAA stated in an email that the organization takes multiple measures to ensure the integrity of the approximately 13,000 events it monitors and that less than 0.25 percent were deemed suspicious enough to warrant an investigation. The email stated that even fewer had “specific, actionable information.”
Nevertheless, the scandals have attracted attention and sparked concern. A recent survey revealed that more than half of college students between the ages of 18 and 22 have placed sports wagers, and the NCAA plans to conduct an athlete-only evaluation this autumn.
For some, the detected irregularities are evidence that the system is effective.
“The good news is that these things are being flagged, discovered, and managed, so I believe that what is currently in place has the potential to work,” said Baird Fogel, a California attorney who works in the sports wagering industry. That does not preclude the possibility of doing more.
Keeping track of wagers made with illicit bookmakers is significantly more difficult. The American Gaming Association estimates that approximately $4 billion is wagered illegally each year.
It is more difficult for lesser-known leagues to hire firms like U.S. Integrity while avoiding sponsorship or data agreements with casinos than it is for large conferences loaded with media rights money.
The Mid-American Conference consented last year to license its data and statistics to Genius Sports, a London-based company that supplies sportsbooks with information. Navigate, a Chicago company that conducts research and data analysis for sports organizations and collegiate conferences, estimated that such a contract could be worth up to $1.5 million per year.
Navigate estimated that the ever-expanding Big Ten could earn as much as $25 million, the SEC as much as $22 million, and other power conferences as much as $14 million if they agreed to comparable agreements.
According to Navigate’s senior vice president of client strategy, Ron Li, the market for legalized sports betting could reach $8 billion by 2025, according to a Morgan Stanley projection from late 2019. When this number is reached by the end of 2022, Morgan Stanley will revise its forecast to nearly $13 billion.
“The main takeaway is that Americans enjoy gambling, especially when it comes to sports betting,” Li said. “We continue to grow at a rate that exceeded expectations in 2018 when marijuana was legalized,”
There would have to be a compelling reason for a conference such as the SEC or Big Ten to risk having its events questioned due to a commercial relationship with a gambling corporation.
Following line movements is facilitated by technological advances, and the celebrity quarterback in Columbus, Ohio, or point guard in Lexington, Kentucky, will likely be recognized at the wagering counter.
Much more difficult to track down is the third-string offensive guard or 12th member on the basketball team.
“In retail locations where you can bet anonymously, the sportsbook does not have the ability if the dollar amount is below a certain threshold and nobody identifies you as that individual,” Holt said. “It is highly unlikely that they will recognize you. Everyone is expected to exercise reasonable caution. However, $50 bettors in a sportsbook are typically not implicated in illegal activity.”
Many college athletes could use wagering applications, which should theoretically make them simpler to monitor, but phony accounts complicate matters. Authorities say that some Iowa and Iowa State accounts were created under the names of other individuals.
No matter what measures are taken, occasional wagering scandals will occur, so monitoring athletes, instructors, and staff members is a growing industry that will likely continue to expand.
“If you want to protect your brand, your assets, the integrity of your game, and your league, you must have the right integrity programs,” said Fogel. “I don’t think you can ignore it.”