There was much to be learned about New Jersey sports betting at this month’s press conference at Atlantic City’s Resorts Casino Hotel. You could tell it wasn’t going to be a regular show-and-tell once you took a glance at the guest list. Some of the big names invited to the conference were NJ Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, state Director of Gaming Enforcement David Rebuck, GeoComply CEO David Briggs, Resorts CEO Mark Giannantonio and several DraftKings executives.
The topic of the event? Integrity. You hear this word being thrown around a lot in the sports betting industry, mostly in regards to the so called “integrity fee.” Integrity fees are essentially a percentage going out to sports leagues from sportsbooks. One of the reasons behind the fee is due to the sports leagues claiming an increase of time and money spent on data monitoring and integrity protocols. So far, none of the sports betting markets in the country have included such a fee. However, the Sunday event sought out to discuss the relation between integrity and technology, using data from the NJ sports betting industry.
One of the aspects of the New Jersey sports betting technology to consider is geolocation, a term familiar to any bettor in the state. It automatically turns on as soon as you log onto the NJ sports betting site or sports betting app, in order to confirm that you are betting within the state of New Jersey. What’s more, during the course of any site or app session, the geolocation will reappear again and again.
DraftKings Sportsbook, whose presentation kicked off the event, talked about not only tracking the geolocation of existing bettors, but also checking a database of “self-excluded” bettors, who have decided it’s in their best interest to stay clear of such activities. Furthermore, every time a new customer joins a New Jersey sports betting app or website, their data is also shared with anti-terrorism task forces.
A representative from GeoComply shared his experience with geolocation in regard to online casino gaming, which launched five years before sports betting did in New Jersey. He said although the technology is similar, the sheer popularity of sports betting makes it a much more intense process. For example, it was estimated that 44% of all New Jersey sports betting traffic is logged within two miles of state borders and 72% - within 10. This data alone calls for a more precise tracking of geolocation in New Jersey sports betting, where the state border is just a line on the George Washington Bridge.
When asked about integrity, Briggs added that all collected data will be presented if a need for investigation arises, since every move of the bettor is captured and recorded. In the case of New Jersey, the fact that a player could be in Hoboken one minute and in Manhattan the next forces operators to track the location of players every 60 seconds. This, Briggs said, is a system unique only to New Jersey and nowhere else on the entire planet.
Online sportsbooks are far from the only ones that partake in this Big-Brother sort of practice. Brick-and-mortar sportsbooks revealed during the press event a kind of “surveillance room”, where you could see dozens of screens and just as many employees monitoring them. On the screens - the faces of every patron in the venue that used a teller window, including self-service kiosks. Patrons are required to remove any caps or glasses while placing their bet. The pictures from the sportsbook cameras are kept for a minimum of seven days and in the case of any suspicion, they’re swiftly passed on to authorities, who in turn send back facial ID.
Such a practice defeats any attempt at anonymity in sports betting. Industry representatives at the conference said that soon enough the facial recognition technology will be at a level where a known offender could be prevented from even placing a bet.
For this purpose, every casino has a “maximum anonymous bet.” For federal purposes, that amount is $3,000, but most casinos appoint a lower maximum. The purpose, representatives say, of facial recognition is the prevention of a large bet, influenced by inside information. For the same reason, bettors are restricted from making continuous $100 bets at a self-betting kiosks from the surveillance personnel and security guards.
Another interesting aspect of sports betting integrity issues is, well, sportsmanship. Most casinos may be rivals in terms of advertising and revenue, but it’s common practice for competitors to keep an open line of communication when it comes to “bad guys.” Resorts Director of Surveillance Kevin Duffy said he knows for a fact his company maintains a good relationship with every other New Jersey casino and even overseas. Rebuck provided an example of this during a tennis match in the summer. European officials notified the casino of a possible match-fixing on a doubles match at Wimbledon in June and within hours, all of New Jersey was searched for any bets made on that same match.
Such practices also work in keeping away perpetrators who might want to use New Jersey sports betting for money laundering. State attorney general Grewal said the state is doing everything in its power to maintain integrity in every aspect of the industry and spares no resources in doing so.
Professional sports leagues are understandably concerned about legal sports betting taking over the US, but according to industry representatives, there is no need for it. The sheer amount of data that sportsbooks collect on bettors is enough to regulate the betting process, Briggs said. Both Briggs and Rebuck pointed out in their presentations that leagues don’t need to be involved in keeping the integrity in the industry, and since they don’t need to be funding the casinos’ work, so is the vice-versa not necessary.
There seems to be a consensus between sportsbook and casino executives that integrity fees wouldn’t serve much purpose to sports leagues. It surely doesn’t seem as though leagues will be giving up on the prospect of getting a cut of sports betting proceeds any time soon. After the in-depth press conference on technology and integrity in New Jersey sports betting, however, it would be even harder for them to argue to justify integrity fees.