Sports betting operators in the United States are joining forces with state and tribal regulators, law enforcement and other stakeholders to form the Sports Wagering Integrity Monitoring Association (SWIMA).
SWIMA will partner with regulators, law enforcement and sports betting operators to form a central hub which will be used to identify suspicious betting patterns and send alerts to the appropriate authorities for follow-up as the US sports betting landscape takes shape.
According to Reuters, the setup of SWIMA was assisted by and is modeled after Europe’s own monitoring association known as ESSA. SWIMA will be headed by former NJ assistant attorney general and gaming regulator George Rover.
Rover told Reuters last week that he expects SWIMA to be operational “within 90 days.” Numerous operators have already gotten on board as well. Among those involved with SWIMA so far are MGM Resorts, Caesars Entertainment, William Hill, DraftKings, FanDuel, 888 Holdings, Bet365, Hard Rock, Resorts and Tropicana AC.
With numerous states already in the process of legalizing sports betting and even more expected to come on board next year, the formation of a centralized integrity monitoring repository has been discussed as a much-needed step to combat corruption, money laundering and other criminal activity as legal sports betting expands across the US.
Back in August, Ohio State Senator Bill Coley pitched the idea of a central database that could be used to track every sports wager placed in order to identify suspicious activity, money laundering and signs of problem gambling.
Senator Coley, who also serves as president of the National Council of Legislators from Gaming States (NCLGS), explained that a database capable of working across state lines is imperative in the fight against corruption and problem gaming.
Although individual states have instituted their own regulatory schemes to great effect (including Nevada for several decades), the expansion of sports betting into additional states raises the stakes and calls for new measures.
Specifically, individual states are limited in their reach as they only have oversight over gaming within their own borders. Senator Coley made the point back in August that the lack of a national integrity monitoring association would make it a fairly simple thing for criminal groups to break up their action across state lines and fly under the radar.
As a hypothetic example, he pointed the possibility of a group placing regular wagers in the range of $10,000 across 15 sportsbooks located in different states, and then suddenly doubling that action to $20,000 across those same sportsbooks when they have a fix in place.
A regular customer increasing his wager from $10,000 to $20,000 at a single sportsbook might not raise many eyebrows. But with a national database in place, a sudden jump in action from the usual $150,000 to $300,000 as a total would be noticed and prompt authorities to take a closer look.
American Gaming Association Supports SWIMA
The American Gaming Association (AGA) issued a statement in support of the idea last week. Here’s what AGA Senior VP of Public Affairs for the AGA said:
“The formation of the Sports Wagering Integrity Monitoring Association (SWIMA) serves as another important milestone toward realizing the benefits of a legal, regulated sports betting market in the United States, which provides robust consumer protection, increased transparency and additional tax revenues for state and local governments.
“Today’s announcement comes at a critical time as dozens of states and sovereign tribal nations are poised to pursue legal sports betting in 2019. Moving forward, SWIMA will provide an important hub for all stakeholders to work together, further demonstrating the industry’s commitment to upholding integrity across all facets of a legal, regulated sports betting market.”
The AGA is firmly opposed to federal sports betting regulation, but the establishment of a national monitoring group actually aligns well with the AGA’s long term aims by providing ammunition for AGA arguments against two major points of contention: federal legislation and integrity fees.
The AGA believes federal sports betting legislation is unwarranted and potentially harmful to the industry. Those who favor federal legislation say it is necessary to protect the integrity of sports in the United States.
To that end, the AGA has said in the past that it would support “the establishment of a data repository to share any suspicious betting information with law enforcement and gaming regulators.”
A voluntary and effective integrity monitoring organization in place bolsters the AGA’s assertion that federal sports betting legislation is unnecessary. Additionally, the existence of such an association damages the leagues’ arguments that an integrity fee is necessary to protect the integrity of sports. With SWIMA in place, federal legislation has just become that much less needed.