How A New Integrity Monitoring Group Could Derail Integrity Fee Demands

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The legalization of sports betting is a hot topic in statehouses across the country.

Sports betting has a lot of friction points. From moral issues to tax rates to retail-only or mobile wagering, there are no shortage of hurdles to overcome.

One of the most contentious subplots within the larger debate is integrity monitoring. Specifically, how, and by whom, it should be handled.

Two groups, two different points of view

Everyone wants the games and wagering on sporting events to have integrity. Unfortunately, there isn’t much agreement when it comes to how integrity monitoring should be structured.

The gaming industry sees it one way, and the professional sports leagues have their own ideas.

What the Leagues want

The professional sports leagues argue only they can monitor integrity, and that the new reality of legal betting is an extra burden. As such they believe they should be paid handsomely for providing the product and taking on this new responsibility of “integrity.”

“There is no betting on Major League Baseball unless we put on the games and invest a lot of time and effort, as our players do, on putting on compelling contests,” MLB Senior Vice President and Deputy General Counsel Bryan Seeley told Fortune. “They should have to pay us something for that.”

In the article, Seeley went on to say, “If we have a scandal regarding the integrity of our game, that could cost us hundreds of millions of dollars. Baseball has a long history of fighting against issues related to sports betting. Anyone who’s followed baseball knows about Pete Rose and the Black Sox scandal.”

What the gaming industry wants

Sportsbook operators and the gambling industry argue that sports betting isn’t new, and bookmakers have been monitoring betting integrity in legal markets for years.

Not to mention an increase in regulated markets will make it easier to monitor games than the majority unregulated markets.

As sports betting veteran and CEO of USFantasy Sports Vic Salerno recently said, “Either the leagues are looking for a handout, or they’ve been grossly negligent about integrity up until now.”

“Who’s been protecting the integrity of sports for the past 50 years? The bookmakers. In the NBA finals last year, LeBron James had a broken hand, the NBA knew about it and they didn’t tell us. Where’s the integrity in something like that? Call it what it is—a royalty fee.”

Now that legal, regulated markets are spreading, operators can improve their monitoring of US sports betting. And the gaming industry recently took the next step on that front.

Enter the Sports Wagering Integrity Monitoring Association

The industry has banded together and created the Sports Wagering Integrity Monitoring Association, or SWIMA.

SWIMA was first established in November 2018, but the group’s official launch occurred on April 18, 2019.  You can find more information on the launch of SWIMA here.

According to the group’s website, “SWIMA brings together sports book operators and regulators across the United States to protect the integrity of sports betting by collaboratively identifying suspicious wagering activity.”

Tangentially, SWIMA also weakens the professional sports leagues’ argument that they’re the exclusive provider of wagering integrity.

Undercutting the Leagues’ main talking point

The gaming industry has decided that this is an issue that will require all hands on deck, and in a rare moment of agreement, they’ve joined forces. It will be hard for the leagues to stand-to-toe with the unified front of more than two dozen suppliers and operators that is SWIMA.

Furthermore, SWIMA is fronted by some of the most respected names in compliance and regulatory oversight.

The SWIMA board consists of:

  • George Rover, SWIMA Chief Integrity Officer; former New Jersey Assistant Attorney General and Deputy Director of the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement
  • Ronald Lemanowicz, SWIMA Operations Manager; former Supervising Investigator, New Jersey State Attorney General’s Office
  • Stephen Martino, SWIMA Board of Trustees Member; Senior Vice President & Chief Compliance Officer, MGM Resorts International
  • Jan Jones, SWIMA Board of Trustees Member; Executive Vice President of Public Policy Corporate Responsibility, Caesars and former Las Vegas Mayor

Thus far the professional sports leagues have been unable or unwilling to elucidate what they intend to do differently to monitor integrity in legal markets. They’re essentially asking for payments without offering an explanation of why the money is needed, or what it will be used for.

The already dubious claims by the leagues will face even more scrutiny when SWIMA representatives clearly explain to legislators how they monitor wagers for integrity, and why league involvement (beyond what they’re currently doing) is wholly unnecessary.

Steve Ruddock

About

Steve Ruddock is an avid poker player and a veteran member of the gaming media. His primary focus is on the regulated US online casino and poker markets. He writes for numerous online and print publications, including OnlinePokerReport.com, USPoker.com, and USA Today.

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