As part of G3’s deep dive examination into the integrity of sports and betting markets, Oliver Lamb, SVP Product Compliance at Kambi, believes the sports betting industry’s foundations are built in the trust that consumers need to have in the integrity of sporting events and those competing.
For Oliver, any breakdown in trust has huge implications for the long-term sustainability of the industry and should therefore have paramount importance.
Oliver, how is match-fixing evolving? Are you seeing any new trends emerging over match manipulation in certain sports?
While in my role as Kambi’s SVP Product Compliance, I can say that there haven’t been many great step-changes in recent times, the main aspect I would highlight is the shift that came at the beginning of the pandemic. The sporting events that fixers tend to target were disrupted, but you could see that they quickly regrouped and focused their attention on sports such as table tennis.
I don’t think the industry or organisations such as the International Betting Integrity Association (IBIA), of which Kambi is an associate member, were surprised by this at all – we had controls and sophisticated monitoring in place to detect and protect against this. When we look at integrity numbers and flagged events, these remain fairly stable, but that shift to more niche sports is what I would point to.
Could you tell us more about the process of identifying a potentially fixed match? Let’s say you spot something suspicious… what happens next?
The sports betting industry’s foundations are built in the trust that consumers need to have in the integrity of sporting events, and those competing, if they are to place a wager on them. Any breakdown in trust would have huge implications for the long-term sustainability of the sports betting industry and protecting sports from manipulation is therefore of paramount importance.
Kambi trades over 300,000 events a year, and the first step is to ensure every member of our trading and risk management teams are trained and know what to spot in terms of betting and the market movements. We invest a lot of time and effort in ensuring that those eyes and ears are tuned in to spot the signs of corrupt betting practices.
Once something has been spotted it is passed on to our sportsbook control team immediately, and that’s when the investigation kicks in.
Kambi’s sportsbook control team is a 24/7 operation and always ready to catch this kind of information whether it comes from our trading team, or one of our integrity partners such as the IBIA.
The team then looks through the betting patterns, how the odds compare to the rest of the market and all the prior information we have on the accounts which made the bets, to establish as full a picture as possible as to whether the activity constitutes suspicious betting.
If those wagers are confirmed as suspicious, that’s when we proceed to contact our integrity partners, which would include our operator partners, organisations like the IBIA and the Esports Integrity Coalition, and regulators in jurisdictions where we hold licences.
How does Kambi work with regulators and other organisations such as sports bodies to protect the integrity of sports and prevent match fixing?
One thing we’re always happy to do is share best practice and show regulators and sports governing bodies what’s ‘under the hood’ when it comes to Kambi’s integrity and compliance functions. It’s important for regulators to trust Kambi and that they have confidence in our integrity procedures and controls.
To expand on this, we’ve worked with bodies including the European Council and North American Gaming Regulators Association and numerous governing bodies to talk them through how we work, our place in the integrity ecosystem, and how we can support their efforts towards having the most coordinated approach possible.
Overall, is the sports betting industry getting better at spotting and flagging up irregular betting patterns?
I would say this is definitely the case. Kambi has long invested in this area and we have been very strong on integrity since the company was founded, but you can see that the water level as a whole is rising. This is in part due to the increased exposure that integrity issues are getting, but it is also largely down to the spread of regulation.
If we take the new regulations in the Netherlands and Germany as examples, these frameworks have integrity monitory and sporting protection baked into the regulations. As a result, ever more operators are responding and putting sophisticated and coherent approaches in place to do their part for the protection of global sporting integrity.
Do any jurisdictions in particular offer any unique challenges to sports betting integrity and how does Kambi address these challenges?
Challenge isn’t the word I’d use – growing burdens in this area should be welcomed by operators and championed by regulators. With a singular focus on regulated markets, Kambi plays a key role in the detection of sports manipulation worldwide, and we knew that anchoring our business in the values of integrity and compliance from day one would be a cornerstone in our ongoing commercial success.
We are active in approximately 40 regulated jurisdictions, working with a number of multi- jurisdictional operators. If there is a particular challenge there, I would say it’s making sure that we and our operators are fully across which regulator needs to know what information in the event of suspicious betting activity. Ensuring we meet those obligations efficiently is vital.
What can be done to prevent match fixing? Are harsher sanctions on athletes the way forward? Or are educational programmes aimed at younger athletes coming through the ranks a more effective tool?
While as a B2B provider this is not an area in which Kambi is directly involved, we welcome educational programmes that training organisations and operators support. By way of example, our partner Kindred Group works closely with Swedish football to provide integrity education to all participants.
What I would say is that athletes are the end point of this corruption, and potentially in some cases they are being manipulated like the betting markets themselves. The core problem from the perspective of prevention are the match fixers and the organisers – you will never be able to fully prevent it unless you go after the instigators of the problem, with the investment and international coordination that requires.
Are there any sports or betting markets which are particularly prone to match manipulation?
Lower level tennis remains one of the major sports affected by integrity issues, and table tennis grew as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. There is talk around esports, and we do see occasional issues. However, considering it is a fairly new part of the sports betting ecosystem, there is a lot of good work being done by the likes of the Esports Integrity Coalition, who are active as the bridge between the industry and events organisers and helping to build out that mutual understanding.
In terms of the betting markets themselves, it doesn’t change too much. There is less large scale fixing at an event level than there once was, such as 1919 Black Sox Scandal, which relates to an attempt to fix the MLB World Series.
Now it is more focused on fixing single points or occurrences, but this is where integrity organisations and suppliers such as Kambi invest a great deal in tracking those markets, controlling risk and ensuring the right measures are in place to protect against manipulation.
Are you able to help inform policy in certain jurisdictions when it comes to sports betting integrity issues. So, in the US for example are you advising regulators in certain states?
We are always actively involved in conversations with regulators in every jurisdiction in which we operate. Having genuine, two-way conversation and collaboration between regulators and the operators and suppliers is key to ensuring best practice when it comes to protecting sporting integrity.
Kambi is an independent provider of sports betting technology and services to the regulated global betting and gaming industry. The trusted partner to more than 25 operators on six continents, Kambi acts as an incubator for operator innovation and differentiation through its data-driven sportsbook core and flexible technology.