The Indianapolis Colts ended mandatory mini-camp on Wednesday without Isaiah Rodgers Sr., a cornerback who has been away from the team since reports surfaced this month of his pervasive betting activity inside the team facility.
Rodgers’ absence comes roughly a week after reports circulated that he made hundreds of wagers, including several on his team to win, as a source with first-hand knowledge of the activity told Sports Handle.
The allegations surfaced during a period rife with player betting activity. Three prominent NCAA Division I schools — the University of Alabama, the University of Iowa, and Iowa State University — have dealt with a surfeit of sports betting cases in recent months, ensnaring more than 40 student athletes and a former coach. In the case of Alabama, the university terminated baseball coach Brad Bohannon amid reports that he communicated with an Ohio bettor who placed a wager on the LSU Tigers to defeat the Crimson Tide.
An MLS player is currently under suspension following reports that he received a payment from a Brazilian match-fixing gang to deliberately receive a yellow card. Prior to the Colts report, the NFL suspended four Detroit Lions players in April for betting from team facilities, while ESPN reported last month that a second wave of potential investigations could be on the horizon.
On one hand, the confluence of activity provides the clearest indications yet that the “system is working,” American Gaming Association Senior Vice President Casey Clark told Sports Handle last month. For the most part, sophisticated investigative tools are not used as often by offshore books, which appear less equipped to respond to such incidents.
On the other, there are concerns that some cases can slip through the cracks, especially when a player is placing bets through an acquaintance to avoid detection. It appears the bets placed by Rodgers were made on an account opened by an associate, according to an industry source.
Sports Handle spoke with three state regulatory sources for this story, each of whom have maintained high-level positions with prominent states since the PASPA decision. Given the sensitivity of the story, the sources spoke with Sports Handle on the condition of anonymity.
Explaining potential enforcement gaps
Some states have regulations surrounding so-called prohibited bettor lists containing active players from professional sports leagues, as well as team and league employees. If someone famous and with a distinctive hairstyle like Dennis Rodman enters a sportsbook, most employees will be able to spot that star athlete right away, but an obscure third-string offensive tackle will typically be less recognizable.
The task becomes even more challenging when attempting to identify a non-star player placing wagers online.
At the moment, there isn’t a single state with a statutory mandate that compels leagues to provide a prohibited bettor list to regulators and operators.
At one point in the 1990s, four different players appeared on NBA rosters bearing the name “Charles Smith.” An astute ticket writer may recognize former Knicks forward Charles Smith if he walked into a sportsbook, but could have trouble recognizing former Heat guard Charles Smith, the leading career scorer in New Mexico Lobos history.
An operator that receives an athlete’s “personal identifiable information” (PII), containing his Social Security number, address, and phone number, can distinguish one Chuck from the other. Operators, as well as regulators, however, need assistance from the leagues. In one state, Iowa, the NBA is the only pro sports league that provides the comprehensive list to regulators, Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission Administrator Brian Ohorilko told Sports Handle in May.
Rodgers’ case exposed other complications. While Indiana is among the states that prohibit proxy betting, professional athletes can avoid detection by enlisting a runner to make wagers. Last week, a professional sports bettor noted on a national podcast that he knows of several athletes that use runners, while adding that the public “would be shocked” if they knew how many athletes are betting. In that respect, even if a sportsbook has an athlete’s PII, the data may be useless unless investigators are able to trace the proxy’s activity back to the player.
As one regulator put it, if a bettor uses a shadow account, there is not much a state regulatory agency “could put in place for someone willfully trying to violate a clear league policy.”
Although the regulator conceded that enforcement gaps may exist, he emphasized that the industry typically learns something new each time a major case surfaces. If alerted of suspicious sports betting activity, a regulatory source from another state indicated, the jurisdiction will cooperate with a sports governing body, pursuant to its statutory obligations. In looking into a matter with potential nefarious activity, investigators may attempt to identify how a bettor is funding an account or conducting the wagering activity.
A trusted solution
In terms of investigatory tools, it is important to note that there is not an all-encompassing instrument that a league will use for conducting a review of a gambling matter. Leagues can enlist integrity monitoring from third-party providers such as U.S. Integrity and the International Betting Integrity Association, geolocation technology to determine to a bettor’s physical whereabouts, and their own proprietary technology during the investigative process.
This year, U.S. Integrity and Odds On Compliance launched ProhiBet, a prohibited bettor platform that will serve as a clearinghouse of sorts for monitoring compliance requirements associated with player exclusion lists. The solution, according to ProhiBet, will monitor regulatory requirements for prohibited bettors through an “encrypted, decentralized, cross-monitoring and notification platform.” The ProhiBet pilot program aims to bring together regulators, sports betting operators, and leagues.
As the recent NFL cases indicate, there are tools for regulators to “forensically examine” a betting matter, another regulatory source told Sports Handle. On the operator side, sportsbooks are tasked with keeping their systems compliant with every single state. Since there are so many states with incongruent regulations, finding a database that works for everyone can be challenging. Moving forward, the industry needs to find a single solution that the “leagues can trust,” he explained.
Kenny Moore II on what he told Isaiah Rodgers Sr.:
"The same thing you would do if you had a brother who was going through something. You would give him a hand. You would tell him you would always be there for him. … You would do all you can to make sure he persevered.”
— Joel A. Erickson (@JoelAErickson) June 13, 2023
Jay Kornegay, executive vice president of race and sportsbook operations at SuperBook Sports, is not surprised with the uptick in betting activity among pro athletes. While the SuperBook patrols customers on a “minute by minute” basis to determine where bets are coming from, Kornegay is acutely aware that some athletes are still trying to circumvent league policies.
“Unfortunately, some of them think they can outsmart the process and sneak those wagers in,” Kornegay told Mike Seely in US Bets’ Ask a Bookmaker column this week.
A criminal nexus
Violations of league betting policy typically do not rise to a criminal level. A scandal involving match manipulation may have a criminal nexus, as the MLS case indicates, but a simple bet by a player on his team to win will not violate state law.
While the Michigan Gaming Control Board (MGCB) has measures in place to combat internet gaming crimes, it is not a law enforcement agency. When appropriate, the MGCB works with entities such as the Michigan State Police and the state’s Attorney General’s Office, an MGCB spokesman told Sports Handle. For investigations that lack a criminal element, though, gaming regulators simply may not have the bandwidth to pursue the matter.
An NFL review of the Lions investigation uncovered no evidence indicating any inside information was used or that any game was compromised in any way, the league concluded in April. When reached by Sports Handle on the Colts matter, the league declined comment.
(Isaiah Rodgers on Instagram)
A team interested in preventing players from betting inside a locker room could geofence the area, thereby restricting his ability to sign onto an app. The AGA’s Clark told Sports Handle that the technology is available if schools, teams, or leagues wanted to try to apply that filter.
Another industry source is not in favor of the geofencing idea, arguing that it is too “big brother-ish” to patrol a large area such as a team facility. Even then, there would be simple loopholes to exploit. A bettor could use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to gain access to a site or an unlimited data plan to connect to an app without using the Wi-Fi in a given building.
Reached by Sports Handle last week, Indiana Gaming Commission Deputy Director Jenny Reske said the entity received information pertaining to the Colts allegation and that it is looking into the matter. The IGC did not discuss the Colts matter at Thursday’s regulatory meeting.
Additional reporting by Jill R. Dorson and Mike Seely