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The NHL announced on Tuesday that it is expanding its relationship with Sportradar to use its Fraud Detection System (FDS) to monitor sports betting patterns in gambling markets and to help protect the integrity of its games.
Earlier in the month, reports came out that Sportradar was negotiating a huge, multi-year deal with the NBA.
Sportradar already had deals relating to game data with the NHL and the NBA, along with the NFL and Major League Baseball, among other pro sports leagues.
Using third parties for integrity monitoring has been a hot topic this year; the Olympics partnered with Genius Sports to track betting patterns in relation to the recently completed Rio Summer Games.
The NHL and Sportradar already had a deal in place for the company to be the exclusive third-party provider of the NHL’s real-time game data. That relationship began before the 2015-2016 season.
Using Sportradar’s FDS adds a new level of service for the league. The NHL indicated in a press release on the deal it already used a “variety of security agencies to proactively safeguard and ensure the integrity of its competition.”
Sportradar’s service monitors sports betting activity and trends across more than 550 operators, allowing it to identify suspicious gambling patterns.
“Our award-winning FDS monitors over 100,000 matches across 12 sports around the world each year and we are delighted the NHL has chosen this system, that oversees all relevant operators and markets, to bolster its integrity defenses,” said Andreas Krannich, Sportradar’s managing director of integrity services.
All regular-season and postseason NHL games will be monitored by Sportradar for possible manipulation.
The move to use Sportradar’s FDS comes a year ahead of the NHL expanding into Las Vegas. A new franchise will begin play in the league for the 2017-2018 season.
The presence of legal Nevada sports betting in the same city as a new franchise is probably at least part of the calculus for the NHL’s increased interest in game integrity.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman hasn’t spoken much about sports betting in his tenure. But clearly the issue is on his mind with the Sportradar relationship.
“While we have the utmost confidence in the integrity of our sports and our games, Sportradar’s Fraud Detection System provides an additional layer of security and protection,” Bettman said in a press release about the Sportradar deal.
Of course, the concern about integrity is at odds with a statement Bettman made just last year.
“I don’t worry about the integrity of the game. Our players are professionals. Their integrity, their values are right on, so that’s not the issue from our standpoint.”
Bettman and the league have opposed the expansion of legal sports betting in Canada and the NHL is a plaintiff in the New Jersey sports betting case. In NJ, the North American pro sports leagues are fighting the legalization of sports wagering in the state.
It is certainly possible that the use of a game-integrity service points to the idea that the NHL and Bettman could be moving toward a stance that regulated (and transparent) sports betting is not the bogeyman.
But the retention of Sportradar for sports betting monitoring is still a long way from the NHL giving a thumbs-up to expanded sports betting in the US and Canada.