US can learn alot from UK sports betting market

US can learn alot from UK sports betting market

October 04, 2016 3:00 AM
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Professional leagues in the United States are finally starting to recognize that legalized sports betting is actually in their best interests, and not the enemy, when it comes to maintaining integrity for the games.

Hopefully, the NCAA will figure that out, too.

“If you want to prevent fixing on college sports, precisely the thing that you shouldn’t do is leave it as illegal,” Rick Parry, a former chief executive for the English Premier League, soccer’s top professional league, said last week during a discussion on the integrity of sports and sports betting at the Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas.

Parry, who previously chaired a U.K. committee on sports betting integrity, presented a strong case for why legalization helps keep the games honest.

Bring it out in the open. Don’t try to hide from its unquestionable widespread existence.

In this day and age, it’s an obvious argument that’s been repeated over and over by proponents of legalization, and yet Nevada remains the only state in which wagering on individual games is permitted legally.

While more than $4 billion was bet with Nevada sportsbooks in 2015, estimates (OK, wild guesses) suggest U.S. citizens could be betting an additional $400 billion illegally on sports every year.

“What you’ve got is a vast unregulated market right on your doorstep, which is the worst of all roads,” Parry said.

To Parry, what you can’t see is what you should fear the most.

Sports betting has been legal in England since 1961. That doesn’t mean a black market doesn’t exist there, but the extent of it is drastically reduced.

“We have a lot of experience,” Parry said. “Not all good experience. We’ve had some major issues with match fixing. “But I think we’ve learned over the years.”

Every licensed bookmaking operator in the U.K. is required to report any type of suspicious betting activity to the leagues and/or law enforcement. Failing to do so puts the operator at risk of losing their license.

“If you’re going to protect integrity, you need regulation,” Parry said. “You need collaboration, you need intelligence, you need to gather information.”

None of that exists, for the large part, when bets are being placed in a black market, either offshore or with illegal bookmakers.

Regulation, on the other hand, puts a system in place between the sports, law enforcement, the betting operators and a possible sports-gambling commission, to monitor any unusual trends and investigate further if needed.

“The betting operators are the ones who tell you what’s going on in the marketplace,” Parry said. “You need collaboration between the leagues and the betting operators.”

The problem in the United States is that a law passed in 1992 – called the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) – prohibits other states from offering legalized sports betting.

The intent was much different than the reality.

“The whole idea was to protect sports and it’s had precisely the opposite effect,” Parry said.

Quinton Singleton, a former vice president at CG Technology, which has a chain of Las Vegas sportsbooks, summed it up best: “Sometimes good intentions have unintended consequences. Sometimes those consequences can be negative.”

Singleton added: “We’re all for integrity, we’re all for protecting sports. Now that we’re advanced, we’re more knowledgeable, let’s do it in a better way.”

New Jersey has tried, unsuccessfully, to maneuver around PASPA and establish its own legalized sports betting, similar to what exists in Nevada.

Ideally, for it to be truly monitored properly, what needs to happen is for not one state, but all or most states to legalize sports betting and then have them establish a gambling commission that is funded by the licensing fees charged to the bookmaking operators, such as a William Hill.

Parry suggests the United States closely study a regulated market such as the one in his native country. Combining those ideas with what’s already established as protection in Nevada could result in the ideal system.

Said Parry: “It’s a great opportunity in the United States.”

How many more years are they going to wait before they take advantage of it?

Sorry to interrupt

The most entertaining exchange during the hour-long session came when Joe Asher, the CEO at William Hill, interrupted another panelist when the topic of daily fantasy sports came up.

Asher is clearly tired of hearing that DFS is less at risk for possible fixing than the betting of games.

“It’s not true,” he said.

He used an example of a defensive back intentionally playing soft coverage on a receiver, who could rack up big points for big-betting DFS players.

“The idea that somehow daily fantasy is less susceptible to corruption is totally, totally, totally false,” Asher said. “Sorry to interrupt.”