More evidence of the rapid rise of sports betting and online gambling, especially here in New Jersey, was on full display recently as a lineup of experts, operators, analysts and panelists gathered for the third annual Seton Hall Law School Gaming Law, Compliance & Integrity Boot Camp.
The three-day event, which featured nearly 50 speakers, offered attendees specific tools and best practices to prevent, detect, and mitigate corruption and fraud in gaming, and to help identify and address behaviors that may be unlawful or unethical.
“Seton Hall Law’s annual Gaming Bootcamp is a landmark event for the industry. As the premier gaming compliance program on the East Coast, the Boot Camp has trained a number of gaming industry professionals in best practices, compliance and—most importantly—integrity, all of which help make the gambling industry more impactful and responsible,” said Martin Lycka, senior vice president for American regulatory affairs and responsible gambling at Entain.
Some notable speakers included:
Each day offered a different theme and slate of speakers. Day one focused on an overview of gaming law and regulation with topics ranging from promoting an ethical business culture and business integrity to the basics of gaming and interjurisdictional issues to what U.S and European operators can learn from each other, along with a keynote address by Rebuck about the future of online gambling in New Jersey and beyond.
The second day focused on compliance, integrity and corruption. The opening panel, moderated by Lycka and including White and Grey, was particularly relevant as more people have started betting on sports and are inundated with ads as operators try to penetrate the market. That growth led organizations and companies such as the Responsible Gaming Council and Wager Score to try to educate bettors about responsible gambling.
“You can have rigorous, responsible gambling standards and regulations in place and still have a successful bottom line,” said White. “If we want a sustainable industry. If we want a sustainable society, we need to ensure that there is a focus on not just the bottom line in terms of revenue, but that there’s also an equal focus on responsible gambling.
Grey said Wager Score offers online gamblers real-time affordability data to help protect their financial health.
“We want to make sure that people aren’t getting overextended,” Grey explained. “Our technology actually intervenes when we see people getting financially overextended. It’s based on information you provide. We monitor your deposits and financial activity. And if we see that you’re starting to go sideways, we can actually send intervention notices to multiple devices, multiple operators, multiple platforms at one time.”
The panel agreed that education at home on the topic is essential since an estimated 75% of college students bet on sports.
“It has to start in the house,” Grey said. “Ultimately, college is the right time to do it. I think we’d be naïve if we’re waiting till 21 to teach a kid or talk to a kid about responsible gaming.”
The discussion also centered on how to navigate the oversaturation in sports betting ads and how to balance it out with responsible gaming PSA’s.
“Is it about the content?” Lycka asked of the ads. “Is it about the frequency? Is it about the volume?”
While White conceded that there is not a great balance at the moment, she was optimistic about one trend she’s noticed.
“I’m really encouraged by those operators who are using some of their ad money to create responsible gambling ads,” White explained.
Grey said that ultimately education and information are needed, combined with technology combatting technology.
“I think as long as technology is matching technology, then we’re OK,” Grey said. “It’s when we’re still using brick-and-mortar solutions to technological problems, is when it’s not going to work. So, technology is the key.”
Another panel covered sports integrity, moderated by Golub, and featuring Toomer–the legendary wide receiver, as well as Katie Willet, senior associate commissioner of Big East Conference, and Bob Boland, principal, Boland Sports Practice.
“We’re going to try to learn what is an integrity issue and how to detect some real-world issues where betting issues have come up and how they intersect with sports,” Golub said at the outset. “And finally, how can we all work together to create an ecosystem that makes money for companies that protects players, teams, conferences, and also serves the regular purpose of consumer protection?”
“I just really want to be a part of that, helping players, helping athletes navigate the new waters of sports gambling,” Toomer said. “It happens every year where players get caught up in it.”
The panel hit on topics ranging from integrity to information sharing to line movements that may trip alarm bells to the changing college landscape with transfer and NIL rules and how schools and conferences can address these issues while protecting student-athletes.
“For us, it’s making sure that our games aren’t being impacted because someone has placed a bet, whether that’s the way in which the fans are acting in a game toward some of our student-athletes,” Willet said. “Whether it’s our student-athletes themselves. That they’re not doing a foul at the end of the game because they know a family member, or someone has money on a game knowing what the spread is. So those are the types of things we worry about.”
“There’s a lot of good that comes out of legal sports betting in terms of surveillance and understanding,” Boland explained. “But it’s a huge cultural shift for institutions. And with athletes not being paid and compensated for their effort, maybe the idea of athletes being involved in some measure of match-fixing or information-sharing is heightened.”
Toomer shared old stories from his playing days, first at the University of Michigan, then with the Giants, where he was a member of the Super Bowl XLII championship team. He also spoke of the differences in pressures between pro athletes and student-athletes.
“When you’re a pro, you kind of sign up for it. You understand what you’re getting into,” Toomer said. “But you’re 17, 18, 19, and you’re just happy to be getting some nice shoes and nice sweatsuits and being a big person on campus. You don’t know the other side about the pressure that comes with it and the vitriol.”
Toomer said at Michigan, players were immediately instructed about gambling and protecting themselves from gamblers.
“Educate these kids on what people are after and let them go into a situation with their eyes wide open,” Toomer said. “These are college kids. They can make the right decisions, but you have to arm them with the information of what gamblers are looking for, what they need, and what kind of advantage they are trying to get.
Toomer also explained that a lot of the information people sought during his time with the Giants centered around fantasy football, which became more mainstream before the recent explosion of legal sports betting.
“It was taboo. You didn’t say anything about gambling,” Toomer said. “It was the worst thing you could do.”
Toomer said that integrity is a critical backbone of this entire new growing industry.
“Without integrity in sports, people are going to lose confidence that what they’re betting on is actually real, and there is an actual game of chance,” Toomer explained. “If there’s no game of chance, people aren’t going to bet on it.”