Big Brother is watching.
That’s one simple takeaway from a marathon two-hour press event held at Resorts Casino Hotel in Atlantic City on Sunday, tackling the topic of sports betting integrity. The star-studded cast included New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, state Director of Gaming Enforcement David Rebuck, GeoComply CEO David Briggs, Resorts CEO Mark Giannantonio, and a host of executives at DraftKings, which opens its sportsbook at Resorts on Tuesday.
“Integrity” has remained a watch-word throughout the sports betting regulation process, as sports leagues have sought a cut of the action — sometimes called an “integrity fee” — but so far, none of the seven states that offer legal sports betting have conceded on that front. Sunday’s presentation made clear that technology is rendering quite a few questions about the integrity of the system obsolete.
Border patrol in NJ
As anyone who has signed up for sports betting in New Jersey knows, “geolocation” occurs every time you log on, to ensure that you are in making bets within the state’s boundaries. Furthermore, you periodically have to re-prove that you remain within state lines.
It turns out that DraftKings, whose detailed presentation kicked off the press event, also checks a database of 7,000 or so “self-excluded” gamblers who have previously decided that risking money on such activities has had a negative impact on their lives.
(For what it’s worth, data from new customers is passed on to anti-terrorism task forces as well.)
A demonstration of the geolocation mapping might already be familiar to NJ Online Gambling readers, but more details emerged on Sunday.
Briggs, from GeoComply, told us that the company’s experience five years ago with the launch of online casino gaming in New Jersey was similar, but not identical. “The technology is the same, but sports betting is significantly more popular, so it’s a more intense process,” Briggs said.
Briggs added that 44% of all traffic from sports betting in New Jersey is coming from within two miles of state borders, and 72% of traffic is within 10 miles of the borders.
Those facts heighten the need for precise geolocation, Briggs said, noting that in looking at the live geolocation map in real time during the presentation, he could see a red “dot” on the George Washington Bridge turn green once it moved 100 feet or so west to cross the New Jersey border.
“The necessity for compliance in this market is totally unprecedented anywhere in the world,” Briggs said. “As far as integrity of the game, all of the data we collect will be available to any potential investigation. Everything is captured. Everything is recorded. If anybody ever tried to engage in any nefarious activity, this would be the worst place to do it.”
He said that if a sports bettor is in Hoboken, for example, “he could very well be heading into Manhattan very quickly.” Briggs said that possibility triggers a “re-check” on the patron’s location every 60 seconds.
“That’s a system that isn’t live anywhere else on the planet,” he said. “It’s specific to New Jersey.”
The casinos know your face
There’s an additional level of scrutiny of sports betting that most brick-and-mortar patrons don’t even know exists. During the press event, we were given brief access to the “surveillance room” — no photos were allowed — where more than two dozen screens and half as many employees were monitoring the sportsbook in the casino.
There are overhead cameras on each teller window, and don’t assume you “escape” by using a self-service kiosk; we viewed two young men using the kiosks on monitors that fully captured their faces. (This is why you may be asked to remove your baseball cap and sunglasses before making a bet.) Anything suspicious can be passed on to the proper authorities for facial ID, and all pictures from the high-tech cameras are retained for at least seven days.
“People may think they are anonymous — but they aren’t anonymous,” Rebuck said, adding that more extensive facial-recognition technology is coming that will be able to flag a ne’er-do-well right as he tries to place a bet.
But how would a casino prevent a large bet, perhaps one influenced by inside information, from being made anonymously? Rebuck said that the maximum “anonymous” bet, per federal regulations, is $3,000, while many casinos maintain a lower maximum that would send the would-be bettor to a supervisor to obtain needed information.
But couldn’t someone just bet $100 at a time over and over at a self-betting kiosk? Not only do the surveillance room personnel watch for such activity, but those security guards you see in the sportsbook are trained as extra eyes and ears.
The enemy of my enemy is my friend
While casinos may be rivals as far as attracting loyal gamblers, Resorts Director of Surveillance Kevin Duffy said that does not extend to sports betting integrity issues.
“We’re all fighting the same bad guys, so we have a good relationship with every other house in town,” Duffy said.
The communication extends to overseas, Rebuck said. He gave an example of a tennis match in June where European regulators notified his division of suspicion of match-fixing.
“We searched if there were any bets on this doubles match at Wimbledon. Thankfully, no bets were made here in New Jersey,” Rebuck said. “But in the future, we’re going to see that — it’s just a matter of time, given the amount of money wagered. We’ll have to be ready.”
Grewal, the state attorney general, said that the presentation was designed in part to let sports bettors know that the online information they share with operators is secure.
“This also should deter people who want to commit crimes like money laundering. We are keeping an eye on folks,” Grewal said. “We are doing everything we can to make sure there is integrity in all aspects, including the games themselves. We have the resources to do that.”
Back to that “integrity fee” issue
Briggs said that the amount of data collected on bettors should ease the minds of any league officials who are concerned about the spread of legal sports betting in the U.S. “If anything, the leagues’ job has been made much easier than it used to be,” Briggs said. “There’s definitely not a greater cost or challenge for them now. There is great opportunity.”
Rebuck, who famously ridiculed the concept of “integrity fees” at a major gaming industry event in Las Vegas in September, reiterated Sunday that he didn’t need help from the leagues, either.
“I don’t need money from them to do integrity because it is paid for by the [casino] industry — that’s my deep pocket right there,” said Rebuck, pointing to Resorts CEO Giannantonio as an example.
Asked, then, what the leagues would even do with “integrity fees,” Rebuck shrugged at first.
“I guess maybe they could bolster the education of employees and players about league rules regarding sports betting?” Rebuck wondered.
Giannantonio was asked if “exclusive league data”— a more recent bid by leagues to extract money from sports betting, possibly even mandated by state legislatures — would provide any tangible benefit to his casino.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I haven’t followed that all that much.”
The leagues aren’t necessarily giving up on getting a direct cut of the sports betting proceeds. But by the end of this press event that effectively clarified the breadth of state and industry monitoring of sports betting, it had become more difficult than ever to fathom what the leagues could do to justify that fee.