Gaming Today first reached out to US Integrity CEO & Founder Matt Holt in early May when the Alabama baseball betting scandal cost head coach Brad Bohannon his job.
Holt’s company was actively involved in the investigation, and as such, he could not comment. The Alabama case coincided with US Integrity’s growing involvement in the intercollegiate space. Holt doesn’t hesitate when asked about the most rewarding aspect of his business.
“For me, it’s the colleges by far,” Holt told Gaming Today in an exclusive interview last week after the company announced its newest partnership with the University of Illinois.
Holt added that US Integrity’s investigation of the Alabama case has concluded.
“It’s closed on our end because we no longer have to investigate, but I know there is ongoing criminal and regulatory investigations by the Ohio Casino Control Commission,” he said. “It’s an ongoing investigation but in terms of the work that we needed to do, we’re done.”
Sports-Betting Educational Seminars Coming at SEC Schools
US Integrity is known for its monitoring prowess, but the company is also taking the lead on educating student-athletes on sports betting and its potential ramifications. The company is doing a barnstorming tour of the SEC this season.
“We’re going to do on-site education seminars at every SEC school — 16 including Oklahoma and Texas,” he said. “It’s a lot of travel, but it’s most rewarding. We know that these are the most vulnerable people, the youngest, and they get put in spots a lot. They don’t necessarily have the same advisory group around them that professionals do.”
The need for education is at an all-time high at campuses across the country. For many of the student-athletes, this will mark their first exposure to different state laws and regulations.
“If you ask most of them, what are the laws, is it a crime or a reg violation to bet on your own events in your state, they don’t know,” Holt said. “I feel like we’re actually contributing new and valuable educational material to a group that’s really at risk.”
He added, “They don’t understand that you could be arrested. That in some states, going in and betting on your own events is a crime. You’ve actually violated law. We’re taking a very vulnerable, extremely high-risk group and giving them education that they may not have gotten.”
Shortly after Bohannon’s dismissal at Alabama, the University of Iowa and Iowa State announced that more than 100 student-athletes combined at both schools were suspected of violating the NCAA’s gambling rules.
The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission (IRGC) determined that no integrity policies were breached. The IRGC never contacted Holt’s company, which will get involved if there are integrity concerns about a player betting on their own sport.
The Iowa case represented a league policy violation based on the NCAA’s rules on sports betting by student-athletes. Last week, the NCAA updated its penalties for violators retroactively to May 2.
“The NCAA just tells them don’t bet on anything or you’re in trouble,” Holt said.
Partnerships Between Colleges & Sportsbooks Take a Hit
The American Gaming Association (AGA) updated its Marketing Code for Sports Wagering in March and the new policies went into effect on July 1. One key provision effectively blunted the recent trend of colleges entering into partnerships with sportsbooks: Prohibiting college partnerships that promote, market, or advertise sports wagering activity.
PointsBet was notably among the sportsbooks pulling out of deals after its agreements with Maryland and Colorado were ended. The AGA also prohibited Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) deals with sportsbooks for amateur and college athletes.
“The AGA guidelines were the big factor, right?” Holt said. “It wasn’t that any of the colleges said this isn’t good, or we shouldn’t do this, or this doesn’t fit well. The AGA put out guidelines, and the sportsbook members of the AGA tend to follow those guidelines.”
Those sportsbook sponsorship dollars are sorely needed by colleges and universities outside of the Power Five conferences. The public perception exists that colleges should be investing in integrity monitoring and education, but the bottom line at many schools makes this impossible.
“The colleges had already been decimated by Title IX years ago and have been trying to figure that out since, and they really got hammered by NIL,” he said. “There’s a lot of money now going to the student-athletes that used to go to athletic departments. So, they don’t have the resources that the pro leagues have to put into integrity monitoring, education, and addiction treatment.
“They’re very cash strapped. They don’t have the big football dollars, or big TV money coming in. Yet, I’m sure the expectation at a UConn or San Diego State is they need to be doing integrity monitoring.”