Major League Baseball Set to Monitor Betting in Real-Time in the 2016 Season
Major League Baseball is partnering with Sports Integrity Monitor (SportIM) to monitor betting lines in real-time. The new arrangement is set to make its debut on 2016 Opening Day. The resale of gaming data to third-party organization is not precluded in the deal.
With its SportIM support, the league will be able to see up-to-the-second and high-quality statistics from the major sportsbooks and sporting exchanges around the globe. The addition to MLB’s monitoring resources is meant to keep up with the mobile-friendly gaming industry, which is growing month-by-month.
Illegal Sports Betting Proxies
The unregulated, underground sports betting industry is said to dwarf the legal sports gambling industry in Nevada by a factor of a hundred. What once was the province of local bookies taking bets out of a spiral folder is increasingly controlled by tech-savvy illegal bookmakers.
What’s more, high roller gamblers have begun to hire proxies to watch games from the stands and report results in real time. Such reporting was never a problem in the days when gamblers only bet on the final totals or the over/under. Now that live betting occurs, in which people can make in-game wagers on proposition bets, that reporting has begun to cross the line into cheating.
Courtsiding in Pro Tennis
The ATP tennis tour has been dogged by the new phenomenon called “Courtsiding“, in which bettors send proxies to report on the outcome of ATP tennis matches. The threat was highlighted in January 2014 when the UK’s Daniel Dobson was arrested at the Australian Open for his courtsiding tactics. The charges against Dobson were eventually dropped and his employer, Sporting Data Ltd., got out of the courtsiding industry, but the incident underscored the possibilities. It also hinted at the ability of high rollers to take advantage of the system for their own profit, because Dobson was not the only spectator being paid for in-game tennis reports.
The publishing world even got into the discussion. Brad Hutchins wrote a book called “Game, Set, Ca$h!“ which details the life of the courtsider. As for Daniel Dobson, he now works in the London offices of Sporting Data, but he says he would love to still be a courtsider. He got paid $67,000 a year to travel to the world’s tennis capitals and watch world class sports.
Dobson told FiveThirtyEight Sports, “Oh, I loved it. I’d love to still be doing it now.”
Mark Locke on SportIM Technology
Mark Locke, CEO of Sports Integrity Monitor, detailed how his firm counters such attempts to job the system. Locke said, “We own and develop sophisticated mathematical models, which are able to very accurately predict the various outcomes on the field of play at any given time. Before and during the games, SportIM will compare, in real-time, the wagering lines offered by global bookmakers covering MLB events, with the lines predicted by its proprietary mathematical models, and when there are discrepancies, a process of investigation will undertake to furnish an explanation.”
Locke said this is the first major corporate deal with an American sports association, though his company is well-known outside of North America. He said, “MLB is our first partnership with a major U.S. professional sports league. Outside of the U.S., we provide integrity services to several of the most high-profile sports leagues in the world, including the English Premier League, which is the most wagered-on sports competition in the world.”
Monitoring for Fixed Games
In the case of the deal between SportIM and Major League Baseball, the data monitoring seems more focused upon potential game-fixers, just as SportIM monitors against match-fixing in the United Kingdom. The system of detection-and-investigation lends itself to prosecution after the fact, instead of stoppage before the bet. For such a system to work, sportsbooks would need a system which gets the information before gamblers could use the baseball equivalent of courtsiders. In tennis, a lag of one-minute is the difference in beating the courtsiders.
Whatever the threat, it is obvious that the various US sports associations are going to need to upgrade their technological capabilities in the next few years, because punters certainly are going to do so. Any major indication of game-fixing would be a public relations disaster for baseball, which has the most sordid history with fixed games in the past.
Cutting Edge Security Technology
For now, MLB appears to be on the cutting edge of security technology. Mark Locke certainly thinks so. Locke said, “This deal brings the monitoring of wagering markets into the 21st century, with MLB taking a proactive role in helping to protect their fans, players and the sport in general from any potential future issues.”
He added, “I think we will see a growing trend amongst professional leagues worldwide to implement similar big data-driven monitoring solutions in the very near future.“