by Tanner Simkins @TannerSimkins
Data Integrity, Future of Sports Gambling Discussed at MLB Winter Meetings
Amidst the trade talk, job searching and awards being doled out at this week’s Baseball Winter Meetings in Washington this week was a look to the future; and an interesting look into how baseball is protecting itself and its reputation, by investing in a global data integrity company that works with…yes, legalized gambling in other parts of the world.
The presentation by London-based Genius Sports, with an assist from the American gaming Association, was yet another step towards enlightening people…media, club officials, other interested parties all in attendance…about the legal and illegal betting market globally, and the steps being taken to look to a future of legal sports betting in the United States with an eye, a very smart eye, on protecting the game from any improprieties that may currently be going on as millions is wagered on baseball and other sports around the world.
Ben Paterson, head of integrity for Genius Sports, told the company has used 10 years of baseball data as a base to detect corruption and works with bookmakers worldwide prior to and as games are played to investigate suspicious gambling activity that could be a clue to game fixing and other nefarious activities. Has anything strange popped up in the States thus far?
While he wouldn’t say, it is safe to say that MLB has looked to recent game fixing scandals in Asia in professional baseball and saw the opportunity to set in with a smart and massive professional engagement that is both insurance and security as MLB looks to again expand its borders globally even more, especially with the upcoming World Baseball Classic.
“Our company bridges the gap between Major League Baseball and sports betting,” Paterson said, while adding that $55 billion is legally wagered on baseball each year, a small percentage of the total amount bet on games when illegal betting is included.
The question, a billion dollar one, remains when will sports betting on baseball or any sport become legal outside of Nevada in the United States.
“We have heard the President-elect (Donald Trump) say on numerous times that he is supportive of repealing PASPA (Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act) and making sports betting legal as a way to bring more into the economy, and we are very encouraged by that,’ said Geoff Freeman, CEO of the Washington-based American Gaming Association. The AGA continues to be more proactive in the past year in pushing for reform and legalization of sports betting, and that the topic is compelling enough for Congress to conduct hearings in 2017. Protecting the data of any league, Freeman added, was essential to get lawmakers to move forward. “If there is no integrity in the sport, nobody wants to bet and nobody even wants to see the game. That’s why the industry thinks this is so important.”
Again when exactly all this happens is still up for debate, with most experts saying 2018 could be a key year, whether the legalization is left to States or goes to the preferred system of a Federally monitored system.
Is there progress? Just think about the fact that gambling and baseball were discussed openly in front of a packed house at the official winter soiree for “America’s pastime,’ and there was no wringing of hands or wagging of fingers. It shows that the current regime in sports is open to change and the revenue that could go with it, and that is certainly eye opening for the lords of baseball.