Like the United States, Holland is undergoing an exciting time in the realm of gaming.
The Dutch Senate passed a remote gaming bill in February. This bill could bring regulated gaming to Holland before the end of next year.
Held in June in Amsterdam, the Gaming in Holland conference had some panels that were relevant to the growth of legal sports betting in the United States.
Amongst the panelists was Sportradar’s David Lampitt.
Lampitt on official data
Within the first two minutes of his session, Lampitt cleared up something that his sports league partners in the United States have shied away from stating:
“The legal reality of the data market, not only in Europe, but internationally — there isn’t anywhere in the world at the moment where there is an established IP right in data.”
Lampitt notes that this lack of an IP, or intellectual property, really underpins everything about the discussion of data rights across the globe.
Managing the lack of ownership
Lampitt says that what makes the sale of official data special is that it is more of a sale of a database as a whole:
“There is nothing to stop, and certainly nothing legally to stop plenty of other companies doing that outside of the official process.”
On where unofficial data comes from
Lampitt noted that official data is relatively worthless with respect to pre-match odds, but official data providers are effectively given “the best seat in the house.”
That is contrasted with unofficial providers who might be in the stadium, or following on a stream or broadcast feed which in Europe is generally delayed by 5-10 seconds. According to Lampitt, that delay is longer in the US, thanks in part to Janet Jackson.
Lampitt then claims there is more than a latency issue. There are quality checks with official data. But Sportradar acknowledges that it provides both official and unofficial data, and it applies the same quality checks, according to Lampitt.
What about integrity?
Lampitt made clear that one of the issues with having an “exclusivity of supply” for the non-top level of sport is potential integrity threats. As a result, corruptors only need to poison one feed to accomplish their ends.
Lampitt says Sportradar advocates for a “non-exclusive model.”
Despite the benefits of the non-exclusive model, Lampitt further states that the company does both exclusive and non-exclusive deals.
What’s happening in US sports betting
Lampitt discussed one of the unique features of the US market:
“They [the sports leagues] have tried to bundle up some commercial benefits into the way in which they make their official product available.”
Lampitt notes that legal and regulatory mandates have largely failed. In the US sports betting arena, it looks like leagues are trying to apply commercial incentives to bring sportsbooks around to buying official data.
Despite what’s happening in the US, Lampitt does not see it flowing back to Europe because the markets are too mature.
While Lampitt’s discussion was, say, enlightening, it was hardly the only interesting talk. The conference also featured match-fixing expert Declan Hill.
Declan Hill on match-fixing
Hill said that “tennis is the easiest game to fix.” This is something that the tennis authorities know.
The Tennis Integrity Unit reported that tournaments with prizes of around $15,000 are rife with match-fixing.
Three matters need to be addressed to protect the integrity of gambling markets, and sports more broadly:
- Gambling addiction present in athletes
- Money laundering
- Match-fixing and other corrupting events
How to fight match-fixing in US sports betting
First is one set of rules for all. Hill highlights SBOBet as a sponsor of West Ham United football club in England. Hill argues that there has to be only one set of rules for all; why reward illegal gambling operations with the benefits of sponsorship?
Second, Hill highlighted a very prevalent problem with tournament incentives. Italian soccer was his first example of teams playing meaningless games at the end of the season, which make them easy prey for match-fixers.
But American sports have a huge problem with the rewards associated with tanking. Eliminating incentives for teams to lose after they are eliminated from championship contention is necessary to prevent corruptors from getting their talons into sports.
Third, Hill lists the sharing of benefits with the athletes. It is important, according to Hill, to get the money back into the hands of the most vulnerable to be corrupted.
Fourth, “a well-resourced national agency dedicated to fighting all sports corruption: corruption, doping, and abuse cases.”
This agency needs to be free from conflicts of interest with the sports leagues and sportsbooks.
Where does match-fixing happen?
Following his prepared talk, Hill was asked a question about what percentage of corruption takes place in regulated versus unregulated markets?
“… only stupid people fix in regulated markets. Only dummies fix on a regulated market. Why would you fix on a regulated market if you can go to Asia, which as everyone knows, they don’t care. It's volume, volume, volume …”
Match-fixing done in regulated markets is “the dummies, the people we can catch easily.”
After his first speech, Hill then joined a panel with others, including Jack Kennedy of Sportradar.
The panel was asked about legal markets creating more corruption. Kennedy said that regulated markets typically only see trickle-down effects from illegal Asian markets. Kennedy notes regulated markets encourage cooperation between bookmakers and sports leagues.
Are leagues taking the right steps to fight match-fixing?
Hill was asked if leagues generally are doing the right thing:
“Let me start with a disclaimer that there are many good people in the sports industry, because what I am about to say is going to sound pretty savage. Self-regulation doesn’t work in sausage factories. You don’t have the owner of the sausage factory saying ‘you know we’re going to reveal to the public when we have toxic products.’
It doesn’t work. It’s the reason every sport in the world has a referee or an umpire, self-regulation doesn’t work … most sports leagues … don’t want outside voices and they don’t want an outside perspective.”
Kennedy was given the opportunity to follow up:
“There’s no real positives in going public straight away when saying we’ve had this problem with one of our games, because that damages the reputation of everything associated with the game, and you know it damages people’s enjoyment.”
Asked about what can be learned from more mature betting markets, Hill focused on the need for competition in order to have integrity.
“What doesn’t work is when we all come together and say what a great world it is…we need independent checks and balances.”
Do regulators know what they are doing?
In response to whether it is better to have a wide-open set of betting offerings or to let regulators restrict bet types, Hill noted that while potentially symbolically interesting, the idea is “useless” because these offerings are available all over offshore.
“It's all about if they [regulators] understand the state of the market, and in all of our experiences, I am sure we will say most people who are tasked with engaging on this problem don’t understand the market at all. They don’t understand where the true risk actually comes from.”
Kennedy doubled down on Hill’s earlier point, stating that if people know how to manipulate games, they are not going to do it in a regulated market.
What to make of this?
There have been some eyebrow-raising comments at odds with some sports leagues’ ideas and strategies. Also, we are seeing state-side legislators who do not have a clue what they are doing when it comes to preventing match-fixing in US sports betting.
Things like exempting in-state teams do not protect them. But there has been seemingly willful neglect to engage with anyone who actually studies match-fixing to understand how it happens.
We also learned that having the MLB, the NBA and their integrity monitoring partners/data sellers will be the first line of defense against match-fixing is likely futile, according to the foremost expert on match-fixing in the world.
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