Karl Bennison runs the Enforcement Division of The Nevada State Gaming Control Board, which oversees all gaming and gambling in Nevada, including the $4.2 billion/year sports betting industry. Ahead of his appearance at World Rugby’s ConfEx 2016, where he’ll join rugby heavyweights such as Nigel Owens, Ben Ryan and Lawrence Dallaglio, we asked Karl about the challenges sport faces from gaming.
What does your role involve as Chief of Enforcement?
I oversee the Enforcement Division of the Gaming Control Board. The Enforcement Division’s key responsibilities are enforcing the law, regulating the State’s gaming industry and arbitrating gaming disputes.
We cover all the gambling in the state of Nevada (from the major casinos to bars and convenience stores), 24 hours a day every day of the week. The agents in the Enforcement Division are armed and make arrests. Our responsibilities include regulating the licensed sports books in Nevada and investigating illegal bookmaking and sports bribery cases.
What are the main threats to sports from corruption and gaming and what levels of the sports does it effect?
There are harms suffered by all when sporting events or sports governing bodies are corrupted, whether it is cheating to win, fixing the event to assure a certain outcome or any other aspect of a league’s operation.
The Gaming Control Board wants to be a good partner in efforts to prevent corruption in sports and we investigate or assist in the investigation of suspicious activity when it does surface. Again, everybody from the fan, the teams and leagues, the bettors, legal bookmakers and regulatory bodies that sanction wagering, are impacted when a sport is corrupted. That is why the proactive efforts to address issues before they become major scandals and the effective handling of incidents when they do happen is so important.
The threat with respect to gaming comes from illegal wagering that is never conducted in an open manner (which deters irregular wagering). Therefore, the illegal operators do not serve as partners in deterring, detecting or investigating activities that could indicate corruption, but help shield suspect wagering.
How common are such threats (match-fixing, spot-fixing, etc.) in USA professional sports?
Suspicious sports wagering activity, as it relates to match-fixing or spot-fixing, is not frequently reported to the Gaming Control Board. However, I believe the threat is real and ongoing to an extent, but there is no requirement for sports leagues to report to us attempts at corruption they have detected and handled internally or referred to another jurisdiction.
The extent of our exposure is the $4.2 billion in sports wagers being placed in Nevada (which, by all estimates I have seen, is a small percentage of the total amount wagered on sports in the U.S.A.) and what is voluntarily reported to us by stakeholders outside of our regulatory authority.
Nevada bookmakers are required to report suspicious wagering, record transactions and follow all the laws, regulations and controls that apply to their operation. Even though law and regulatory compliance is mandatory for our licensed bookmakers, I believe they all care about the integrity of the sport and most go above and beyond what is required to aid in any effort to maintain that integrity.
We do investigate those incidents reported to us or assist others when asked with sports integrity concerns or investigations, but I don’t know how common such threats are to professional sports in the United States.
Rugby seems to have escaped lightly so far, but it is becoming a far bigger commercial animal. How is corruption likely to try to get a foothold in the sport?
There are any number of ways for corruptive influences to infiltrate a sport, from heavy handed (e.g. blackmail) to subtle (e.g. gaining insider information) tactics, in furtherance of efforts to influence outcomes or gain wagering advantages not available to the general public.
Those trying to corrupt players and officials are relentless and their methods evolve in an effort to stay ahead of preventive measures. Those fighting this corruption can’t let their guard down—it’s an ongoing effort.
How can a sport prepare and combat such activities?
I think it is just a matter of doing your best to minimize the likelihood of corruption getting a foothold, through sports integrity related rules and awareness and education programs and policies (which need to be kept updated).
As an incident is often inevitable, despite all efforts, it is important to address policy violations in a timely and meaningful manner and report and work with the relevant authorities to get incidents investigated that are suspected to have crossed from policy to criminal violations.
There have to be consequences for violations from the outset, or the policies and laws will not serve as deterrents.