The issues of match fixing, point shaving and lately, even courtsiding, have all put problematic betting issues regarding sports in the news a lot lately. And of course, nothing is more front-of-mind when it comes to sports than the upcoming XXII Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia that will run from February 7 -23, beginning in just a few weeks.
Nevada Regulators to Help IOC
And of course, no one knows more about sports betting than Nevada, the only state where sports betting is officially legal in the U.S. With that in mind, the Silver State’s Gaming Control Board (GCB) has agreed to work with the International Olympic Committee (IOC), with the goal for both bodies to uncover any possible improprieties that might surface in the Winter Games competitions. The two key groups say they will share information in an effort to maintain the integrity of all sports involved.
Ironically, Las Vegas sports books will not be able to accept any wagers on the Olympic games themselves, but the plan is apparently to keep an eye on both illegal and offshore books for any signs of game manipulation.
“Nevada is regarded throughout the world as the gold standard in gaming regulation and part of that reputation is tied to the board’s tireless efforts to thwart illegal and irregular betting in general and we are glad to put forth that same level of effort in eradicating illegal and irregular betting in sports specifically,” said GCB member Shawn Reid. “The Gaming Control Board is honored to be a partner with the International Olympic Committee in the fight against irregular and illegal betting in sports.”
This matchup follows an earlier agreement that was signed in London, prior to the 2012 Summer Olympics in that city. Information given by Nevada regulators and sports books will be put to use in the IOC’s newly dubbed Integrity Betting Intelligence System (IBIS), according to IOC communications director Mark Adams.
Old Problems, New Games
The issues the two organizations will be watching are certainly nothing new; sports books have been pivotal in the past in unravelling point-shaving schemes within both college and pro-basketball games for the NCAA and NBA. The books watch specifically for irregular betting patterns to help them zero in on potential problems.
The Nevada Board’s enforcement chief Karl Bennison says the GCB has plenty of experience in these matters, having previously worked with Major League Baseball, as well as the NFL; this will be the Board’s first year assisting the Olympic Games with these issues, however. And Bennison knows that almost anything could emerge with a little digging.
“There’s no telling what we could find in our investigations,” Bennison said.
“We might be contacted by a casino, and they might say we have unusual or awkward activity on the betting,” he noted. “For example, people could be betting one way on the game, and all of a sudden a lot of money comes in on a different side.”
The GCB was instrumental in uncovering a point-shaving system back in the 1990s at Arizona State University. In what became a major scandal, two ASU basketball players were taking bribes to throw the point spread for four different games. It was some of the Sin City sports books that initially spotted an unusual pattern of huge bets; they alerted the GCB, which in turn contacted the FBI.
While Bennison says the collaboration is simply being done as safeguard, and not because anyone actually anticipates anything shady to go on, that’s sort of like saying the SWAT team is only on hand in case the bad guys don’t behave nicely. And with a $10 million fund having been set up by the IOC to fight any possible match fixing or illegal betting, we’re guessing the metaphoric AK’s will be locked and loaded.