A man in his 20s shows up at a retail sportsbook and wants to make a large wager on a college sporting event. The employee at the window asks some questions and finds out that the man is a college athlete himself — though not in the same sport or in the same state.
After some deliberation, the bet is not accepted, and a report is issued to a national oversight body, which sends an alert to its members.
That body also sends the information to regulators in that state, and they discover that the same individual had gone to another casino trying to make the same sports wager, though not as large. An investigation ensues.
On another occasion, rampant rumors of match fixing on Ukrainian table tennis matches lead this oversight body to send an alert to its member operators — several of whom immediately suspend wagering on that particular league.
That’s the mandate of the two-year-old Sports Wagering Integrity Monitoring Association (SWIMA) led by George Rover, the non-profit organization’s chief integrity officer and a former key figure in the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement.
Getting buy-in from operators
Rover, speaking recently with Andrew McCarron, the managing director for SBC’s Betting on Sports America online conference, said that 37 operators now have become members of SWIMA.
The concept for the alliance, Rover said, came out of the May 2018 U.S. Supreme Court decision that opened the door for states other than Nevada to regulate sports wagering.
“There were questions of how to deal with sports integrity among operators who work across state jurisdictions,” Rover said. “The concern was that each operator and regulator would just operate in their own silo, and not understand how it worked elsewhere.
“We needed to track how various operators take in wagers on various events, and it was thought that a federal program would not be as effective as a voluntary one.”
So with the help of pioneers MGM and Caesars, Rover said, the organization launched in the summer of 2018.
SWIMA’s method of operation
“The way the system works is that each operator is obligated to monitor its wagering activity and send an alert into the SWIMA platform if there is suspicious activity,” Rover said, adding that other members are obligated to respond back if they see similar behaviors.
If such reporting “rises to a certain level,” Rover said, SWIMA would send all regulators an email detailing the circumstances.
Sports leagues, regulators, and law enforcement officials are not eligible to be SWIMA members, but Rover said each group is crucial to the success of the organization. He noted that those entities at times can have “turf issues” that must be navigated.
“The goal is to bring us all closer and closer,” Rover said. “It’s the only way to break up these sophisticated rings. No single stakeholder can do it on their own.”
Rover received input from European integrity monitors before SWIMA’s launch, and he said that he has since noticed different challenges.
“Paying off players — match-fixing — is more more prevalent over there than here,” Rover said. “What I see in the U.S. is an issue of information — who knows that a star player will be suspended ahead of time, or that a star player won’t play. A player may not be aware that information such as that can have impact on betting activity.”
Playing the skins game
David Rebuck, New Jersey’s director of gaming enforcement, said during another recent SBC panel that his state’s decision on allowing for up to three sports betting mobile partner “skins” per racetrack and per Atlantic City casino was informed by negotiations with those casino operators in the year or two prior to the launch of online casino gaming in the state in November 2013.
“There was a long debate, because there always is fear of the unknown,” Rebuck said. “We got all of [the leading casino executives] in one room, and unanimity is not the easiest thing in the world. But skins are great for competition and great for the consumer.”
There currently are 33 online casino sites, though some are companies such as Pala, BetMGM, or 888 that feature separate sites for online poker vs. other online games.
Rebuck added that for those states that have preferred a “monopoly concept” such as having a lottery run sports betting, a weak product will ensure that gamblers stick with illegal offshore sportsbooks.
“They have been in business for 20 to 30 years, they are very good at what they do, and they offer a good product,” Rebuck said. “And the marketing of offshore sportsbooks is very good — it makes it look legal even though it isn’t. The biggest level of competition is not neighboring states but illegal sportsbooks.”
New York’s state of mind
In New York, Assemblyman Gary Pretlow said during another panel that he favors “at least two skins” per operator.
“Some casinos are advocating for just one skin because they are greedy and think they can be their own bookie,” said Pretlow, who seems to stand alone in 2020 by also endorsing an “integrity fee” for pro sports leagues via a sliver of revenues going to those leagues.
Pretlow also said of online casino gaming: “I’m open to it.” But he added that online poker efforts have gone nowhere and that the overall Assembly vibe is “lukewarm, if not chilly.” So he concluded that “online casino is down the road. I don’t have any anticipation of that happening in the near future.”
New York State Sen. Joseph Addabbo said that while Democrats have now established supermajorities in Albany, “overriding a veto is not something we really want to do” — meaning that he and others prefer a buy-in from Gov. Andrew Cuomo on mobile sports betting. Addabbo also suggested is he is amenable to just one skin per operator if it is the price of getting a bill passed on the topic.
Meadowlands Racetrack operator Jeff Gural — who also runs two upstate New York racetracks that offer casino gaming — said during the same panel that the dominance of his partner FanDuel in New Jersey, as well as DraftKings, shows that in New York, “I think we’d be better off with one skin. I almost wonder why [more than a dozen small operators in New Jersey] even bother.”
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