Nov 22, 2022 - Economy & Business

Meet the secretive company that investigates suspicious sports betting activity

Illustration of a die wearing a burglar mask.

Illustration: Lindsey Bailey/Axios

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.

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