US Integrity founder and CEO Matt Holt hopes that the recent rash of NFL betting investigations will dissuade players from participating in future disallowed sports wagering activity.
There are still a “multitude” of outstanding NFL betting investigations on players wagering at practice facilities from last season (which is prohibited under league rules) that have yet to be publicly disclosed, Holt told LSR Thursday.
“Hopefully next summer we’ll see a lot less, because what’s happening this year should be a really good deterrent to athletes,” Holt said. “It’s like, ‘Hey, don’t log in at practice, man. Stay off the betting apps during practice.’”
Holt added that increased awareness and education on the subject will be helpful as well.
Latest NFL betting probe involves Colt
Earlier this week, Indianapolis Colt Isaiah Rodgers Sr. became the latest player to find himself under probe.
ESPN reported that Rodgers made around 100 wagers (most between $25-$50.) The wagers allegedly included bets on his own team and were placed through a sportsbook account that was opened in the name of his associate.
Rodgers later apologized via Twitter.
“If you’re a player (betting) in the stadium or at practice at a time when there’s no fans around, you’re just asking for it,” Holt said.
No apps at practice makes perfect
As the legalized sports betting industry has evolved, state regulators in many jurisdictions have transitioned from clearing operators to monitoring activity.
Therefore, they have more time to concentrate on catching unpermitted activity. State regulators work in concert with integrity monitoring systems, sportsbooks and leagues to find bad actors, including those in disallowed locations.
“We need to start geofencing some of these locations, probably,” Holt said. “Or players just need to start realizing that when they log in from (the practice facility), everyone knows. Your buddy, your girlfriend, your sister, they don’t play for the team. So that’s just actually making it worse, logging in from their accounts there.”
NFL betting education paramount
Education is now at the forefront of the conversation.
Some NFL players anonymously told The Athletic recently that they were unaware of the rules and regulations governing sports betting.
“I think it’s a challenge,” Holt said. “There’s a huge demand and need in the industry for education and awareness programs. And we take for granted that these athletes know that they can’t bet on their own leagues.”
NFL betting could mean charges
Holt also thinks conferences and leagues need to take it a step farther and focus on potential criminal ramifications, depending on the jurisdiction in question.
“Yes, players should understand the rules and policies of the league that is paying them or giving them a scholarship. But they should also be made aware that by participating in gaming in this jurisdiction, am I liable for criminal prosecution,” Holt said.
“It also goes to their willingness to take the risk. If all that was on the line is my college scholarship, and ‘OK, I’m going pro at the end of the year anyway,’ maybe that’s not the greatest deterrent.
“But if they also knew in Colorado, it’s a felony to wager on your own event, ‘Whoa, wow,’ now that’s a different story. Going to jail is a lot different than losing my scholarship when I’m already leaving.”
Regulated sports betting system works
Ultimately, Holt believes the process is standing up the belief that a legal and regulated sports betting industry works, and is a far better method than the alternative.
“It’s exciting. I think the process works,” Holt said. “I think there’s still a lot of room to grow in terms of information sharing, the speed, making sure everything really is truly real-time, emulating what happens in the financial services world.
“But we’re getting there, and I’m excited about where we’re at and where we can go with a focus on compliance and integrity.”
Betting scandals not just NFL issue
Professional leagues can ill-afford a scandal as impactful as athletes intentionally throwing games. The NFL has already had to deal with a multitude of players getting in trouble, including superstar Calvin Ridley.
“Hopefully we won’t have too many superstars being involved, but I think everyone is vulnerable,” Holt said. “And without the right education and awareness programs, then every athlete is vulnerable, and Calvin Ridley proved that.”
“This isn’t an NFL problem. This isn’t a football problem. The Iowa, Iowa St. issues, which is now over 100 athletes combined between those two schools. The amount of different sports involved in that. Wrestling, track and field, basketball, football. It just hits almost every sport. So it’s not a singular sport issue.
“Hopefully we can use the summer of 2023. Because I think this has been the first summer where (regulators) really haven’t had licensure issues in new states as they launch, or Covid looming over their head. So they’ve actually had the time to focus on the enforcement of regulations, and now we’re seeing the result of that enforcement.”