Q&A: US Integrity’s Matthew Holt on protecting sports betting
US Integrity is the nation’s leading firm helping US sports leagues and sportsbooks assure that both sporting events and their ensuing wagers are free from fraud. USI President Matthew Holt spoke with iGaming NEXT’s Ryan Butler about his company, its role in shaping the gaming industry and how it helps protect a wide range of stakeholders in ways few fully realize.
Ryan Butler: What is your company’s role in the industry and what are some of its major partners?
Matthew Holt: “So we’re a gaming integrity fraud prevention and sports betting compliance based out of Las Vegas, Nevada. And we basically build customizable solutions for what we consider the three major stakeholder barrels and regulated sports betting, which are regulators, operators and then leagues, teams, universities and conferences.”
“And we think that we’ve done a pretty good job of identifying the problems and building solutions in the industry. And we now work with most of the major professional, collegiate and professional, professional collegiate sports leagues, including the NFL, Major League Baseball, the NBA, some of the smaller leagues, like the Big Three Basketball and PFL.”
“So it runs the whole gambit, as well as the biggest collegiate conferences, the SEC, the PAC-12, the Big 12. Also universities like Penn State and Pittsburgh, Colorado, Kansas, Kansas State, as well as most every licensed operator throughout the country. I think we have about 95% of the licensed operators throughout the country.”
“Overall, we work with regulators in 35 states, as well as Ontario, Puerto Rico, and we’re starting to expand into Mexico, Brazil, and in some other jurisdictions as well.”
“At the end of the day, the one priority they all have in mind is integrity in sports betting because if not, everything goes awry for everyone. Sports and sports betting no longer operate independently. Those two silos came together a long time ago and will probably never not be entwined, they will be correlated for the rest of history.”
RB: How does US Integrity work with these different organizations and how can they come together?
MH: “They have different roles within the ecosystem but at the end of the day, they all want to know what’s going on what’s abnormal, what might be happening, what needs to be investigated, what might get our athletes or our personnel in trouble and for operators, what can we offer different jurisdictions.”
“And essentially what we do is pull in data from all these different sources of information, whether it’s rules and regulations from regulators state approvals, then all the betting data and odds from sports books as well as statistical resulting in real-time data from officiating data, from the leads and bring it all into different types of reports, products and services on a customizable dashboard for different stakeholders, making it really easy.”
“At the end of the day, we think we’ve done a great job of that. We always say the most important number of US integrity is zero; the number of clients that have ever left US Integrity.”
RB: Why is a firm like US Integrity so important for these three different groups?
MH: “None of those groups are staffed to be able to handle this type of monitoring and oversight on their own. I mean, let’s face it, government agencies like state gaming commission don’t have the staff. In many cases, sports betting has only been legal a year, six months, two years, and they haven’t had the time to build up a staff anywhere near the ability to do any type of independent monitoring or oversight.
“Meanwhile sportsbook operators, they always think they have this certain insight into betting because they are they’re dealing with the customers, but they only have one aspect of it dealing with that customer and his trends, not what’s happening throughout the entirety of the industry. So they need outside independent monitoring as well.”
“And the leagues don’t always know what to look for, they don’t have access to the betting information the data needed. So when you put all those pieces together, you then have the ultimate identification tool. And that’s sort of what we bring by being at the epicenter of this industry where everyone’s funneling data and we take that data and send it back out to those same stakeholders in a meaningful way on a really user-friendly dashboard.”
RB: What are the major integrity issues US Integrity deals with?
MH: “There’s a lot of different issues we look at. The easy ones are match fixing, game manipulation and point shaving, which everyone’s really familiar with. Then we get into the hot button topics like misuse of insider information, which is a huge issue with the leagues and their personnel and staff and with the operators as well who lose money on it.”
“But there are lots of other things illegal betting athletes betting on their own sports. Sure, we all saw what happened with Calvin Ridley. And there’s been lots of instances of other athletes not quite as famous in lots of different sports betting on their own sports, not necessarily their own events, or their own games are their own teams, but their own sports.”
“We’ve had lots of incidents of fighters betting on themselves. Realizing that even betting on themselves, not only is it illegal, but it’s illegal for a reason it affects the way a fighter might fight. We had a fighter on a Dana White’s contender series fight who bet on himself and people will say, ‘well, what’s wrong with that he bet on himself to win.’
“Well, inevitably, he ended up not getting a contract from the UFC because he didn’t put on this amazing performance that you need to get a contract on that. But he was one superior skill set, which was wrestling to hold the other guy down. And when the fight, it wasn’t exciting.”
RB: So for you, it’s not only the issues such as match-fixing many bettors think of, but even athletes betting on themselves?
MH: “I think athletes not being able to bet on their own events is really important. I mean, think of a Tom Brady touchdown passes prop. What if Tom Brady bet on himself to go over? Well, people would say, ‘Oh, well, it’s a positive thing. He’s not trying to not throw them.’
“But what happens when it’s fourth and goal from the one and they know they should run the football, but Tom Brady’s throwing it, which has a less statistical chance of working, because he bet his touchdown. Either way, it affects the outcome of the game and affects the way an event is played. And we shouldn’t have it. Those rules are good.”
RB: How has US Integrity grown with the proliferation of legal sports betting in recent years?
MH: “It’s amazing as we continue to grow in this industry and continue to provide services to all of our different stakeholder clients, how much we realize that there’s so many problems or issues that rise up that maybe in 2018 when (the federal wagering ban) got repealed we didn’t think of. But collectively, because all of the stakeholder groups have come together, shown that they care, and put their trust in us at US Integrity, we’re able to then help build more products to help find some solutions for some of the issues that keep cropping up.”