U.S. Integrity President Matthew Holt likes to keep it simple. He said, “If there’s a gold rush, sell picks and shovels.”
His blossoming company believes its business-to-business services are on track top help bookmakers and leagues protect and mine significant riches as a massive legal sports betting industry rapidly expands across the United States.
Holt (@MatthewHoltVP) explains his company’s mission is aggregating as much information as possible from as many sources as possible, and building the technology that can disclose any trends or abnormalities in the betting marketplace.
Since the NBA and MLB began lobbying for an “integrity fee” since the beginning of 2018, the task of monitoring for such trends or abnormalities has become a lightning rod for conflict. Who should be responsible for it? The sports leagues, for a price? Is it up to licensed bookmakers as part of its risk-management responsibilities, an ongoing cost of doing business? Should regulators mandate they work together in some capacity? These remain open questions.
Filling a need for leagues and bookmakers
Holt, a veteran of both Don Best Sports and CG Technology, decided early on that computer tracking advancements would revolutionize sport betting in Nevada and nationally, if PASPA were overturned. Despite CG’s regulatory setbacks in the Silver State, CG helped modernize Nevada sports betting with its mobile betting platform, expansive proposition menu and massive “in-game” or live betting choices, industry observers generally acknowledge.
As CG grew it created its analytics arm to help fortify CG’s risk management. That’s where Holt strengthened his ability to track wagers, examine betting trends, analyze officiating and all manner of the various elements relating to sports betting. And, that also includes social media, he told Sports Handle. “If there’s a post about a game or a player that could relate to betting, we want our customers to know about it.”
After leaving, CG and waiting out a non-compete clause, about a year ago, U.S. Integrity was born.
Industry watchdog services
“What we do is provide for fraud protection and best practices services for bookmakers and sports leagues,” Holt explained. “We build customizable dashboards through which our customers can track everything. We pull in real-time betting data that customers can use to track abnormalities in the betting market.”
“We do robust officiating monitoring, robust monitoring of player statistics, and we look for the correlations and trends. We also look for and catch insider information leaks. Whether it’s trainers, student trainers, associates of players, assistant coaches or anyone with locker room access — we’re looking for anyone divulging information that they shouldn’t prior to the university or the team making it public.”
Although injury reporting at the professional level is imperfect, there is currently there is no such self-reporting mandated by the NCAA or its conferences regarding collegiate athletes. Athletic directors and conference heads have discussed changing this practice, but there are obstacles.
“Not only do these leaks invite nefarious people around your program, the bigger issue now is providing medical information that’s private,” Holt said. “That’s a Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) violation and illegal if it’s done without player consent. We catch people doing it all the time, because that information has a ton of value. Some bettors are willing to pay for it and a lot of people have access to it.”
In addition to injury and medical information, internal disciplinary matters may prove weighty. A UCLA vs. Oregon basketball game a few years ago is an excellent example of this, according to Holt.
“The line was dropping from UCLA -9 to nearly pick ‘em because someone had leaked out that two top UCLA players had missed curfew and were not going to play. Obviously, someone on the inside knew about this and the information leaked out when the trainers were told they didn’t need to get these two players ready for the game. The thing about big bettors is that they all have a large network. When they get inside information they bet it and then they call all the bettors they know. That’s because they want them to reciprocate at some point. So, before you know it, in an hour or so a market can crash.”
U.S. Integrity also conducts awareness training with customers, especially on the collegiate level, so trainers, for instance, are told specifically what they can and cannot divulge.
Power Five on board
“Most of the Power Five conferences including the Pac 12, SEC, Big 12 and several professional leagues have contracts with us,” Holt said.
On the bookmaking side it’s more of a barter arrangement, Holt explained. “[The sportsbooks] give us their lines and betting data and our software analyzes it for any trends or problems. We build a dashboard for each client so the entire process can be monitored.”
“Now, we can look at a game and its entire wagering lifetime from every book we get data from. If a particular book is off-market we can see if a trend is developing. If every day during a certain time a book’s line slips way off the market, at that point we can learn lots of things. Is someone who works that shift doing a really bad job watching the line? Or, could someone be moving a line off-market so a friend or a syndicate can come in and can bet it at those numbers?”
Aggregating real-time betting and line movement
U.S. Integrity also combines information releases with the data it’s providing to paint a fuller picture. The resulting dashboard can tell the customer if any information came out at that time – such as a player getting declared out of the game – that might have caused betting action and a line move.
“If a line moved quite a bit before, you know someone knew about it before the information was released.”
The books can now view the entire “lifecycle” of the betting marketplace in a graphical format, see how their lines moved over the course of a game, and compare it to others from the first bet until a game closes.
Holt notes that college athletics are especially vulnerable to integrity issues, because players are not paid.
The company sends out weekly reports to all clients, including a penalty log. They track every penalty in every game for the SEC, for instance, and its impact on the game and whether it was a non-judgment (offsides) penalty or a judgment call (pass interference).
“It’s a multi-pronged approach,” Holt said. “We want clients to see both real-time and archived betting information. We get lines and betting data from sports books so they can utilize their customized dashboard to see what’s going on.”
“All lines in US regulated markets are managed by human beings. It’s human beings monitoring and changing those lines. And sometimes human beings do things they shouldn’t.”