Meet the secretive company that investigates suspicious sports betting activity
As sports gambling sweeps across the nation, pressure is building on sportsbooks, regulators and leagues to ensure that no one gets an unfair advantage.
Why it matters: Suspicious betting on a recent UFC fight cast a spotlight on the need to ensure a level playing field for gamblers.
State of play: After a slew of bettors appeared to get a heads up on a pre-fight injury, officials turned to a little-known but increasingly powerful firm called U.S. Integrity to investigate.
- “At our core we are an anomaly detection company, so we look for abnormalities across the sports betting ecosystem and then highlight them,” Scott Sadin, COO of Las Vegas-based U.S. Integrity, tells Axios in an exclusive interview.
Catch up quick: A featherweight fight on Nov. 5 between Darrick Minner and Shayilan Nuerdanbieke ended suddenly in the first round in a cloud of suspicion after the odds on the fight “moved dramatically in the hours leading up” to it, ESPN reported.
- “Bettors were convinced that not only would Nuerdanbieke win, but he would do so in the first round."
- He did.
What they're saying: Sadin declined to address the UFC investigation, but said the company is focused on exposing the “misuse of insider information, potential game manipulation and match-fixing concerns,” zeroing in on “abnormal” bets, officiating, roster decisions, plays and coaching maneuvers.
How it works: U.S. Integrity uses algorithmic analysis, sifting through betting data in real time on behalf of certain clients — and in other cases analyzing wagers after the fact upon request.
- The company takes those insights and then uses old-fashioned, shoe-leather investigative techniques to assess whether any manipulation took place or whether anyone got an unfair edge.
- Clients include the largest sportsbooks — such as DraftKings, BetMGM and Caesars — as well as sports leagues.
- “There is very much a balance we have to strike between art and science,” Sadin says. “It’s a combination of both.”
The big question: What constitutes an unfair edge? It’s not necessarily illegal to make a bet based on personal knowledge about a player’s health, for example.
- But leagues and sportsbooks don’t like it — and anyone they catch doing it can be punished, Sadin says. Gamblers, for example, can be banned from certain sportsbooks or limited to smaller bets.
- "Whether it’s illegal or not we want to highlight it for the key stakeholders so that operators can move forward,” Sadin says.
Worth noting: U.S. Integrity’s duty is to its clients, not to the public.
- Sadin says the company does not feel a responsibility to report matters to the public. That’s up to the leagues, sportsbooks or regulators, he says.
The bottom line: With the proliferation of legalized sports betting across the country, sportsbooks and leagues must work to assure the public that the market isn't rigged.