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SWIMA: Uniting for integrity

Insight | Analysis

Operators have banded together to establish the Sports Wagering Integrity Monitoring Association (SWIMA), a body dedicated to upholding integrity in US sports betting. Here the association’s chief integrity officer George Rover tells David Briggs how it aims to maintain a market free from corruption

What is SWIMA?
The Sports Wagering Integrity Monitoring Association, or SWIMA, is a not-for-profit entity whose membership includes the majority of those regulated sportsbook operators involved in the United States betting market. It is important to note that SWIMA will be funded in its entirety by its members and will not require financial support from taxpayers, state or federal governments or the sports leagues.

Why was SWIMA formed?
The invalidation of PASPA by the United States Supreme Court in May 2018 has opened the door for each state to allow sports betting, if they choose so to do. Predictably the volume of betting activity generated by the limited number of states that have authorized sports betting has been huge. With additional states poised to enact legislation allowing sports betting in 2019, it became clear to the industry, as well as to regulators, that a robust compliance structure would be needed to assist sports book operators and regulators in protecting the integrity of sporting events. Hence, SWIMA was formed with three primary objectives in mind: (1) establish a proactive, collaborative entity to facilitate the sharing of information about suspicious sports wagering transactions between and among its members and, in appropriate circumstances, with regulators, law enforcement and the professional sports leagues; (2) establish relationships with the government officials who have the authority to further investigate suspicious activities reported by SWIMA and (3) assist all stakeholders in detecting and discouraging fraud, manipulation and unethical behavior in connection with sporting events.

How many sportsbook operators are participating?
I cannot provide you with a specific number since we recently disseminated the membership documents to the various sportsbook operators. However, I would expect that every sportsbook operator will become a member of SWIMA since its sole objective is to protect the integrity of Sports and that is something that is in the interests of all the sportsbook operators.

Will SWIMA have a relationship with other sports integrity organizations like ESSA?
The success of any sports integrity organization like SWIMA relies upon the sharing of information between and among as many stakeholders as possible. We have had many discussions with representatives of ESSA and they have provided invaluable insights and assistance in our efforts to establish SWIMA. I expect that SWIMA and ESSA will develop a close working relationship. Certainly, SWIMA will consider forging additional relationships if they further SWIMA’s objectives.

Has SWIMA reached out to other stakeholders besides licensed betting operators such as gaming regulators or the professional sports leagues?
In the eight states where sports betting has been authorized, each gaming regulator has expressed strong support for SWIMA. It is clear that to effectively police the integrity of sporting events, a multi-jurisdictional approach that allows sports book operators in different states and tribal jurisdictions to share information about unusual activity in their sports betting operations is essential. With respect to the professional sports leagues, we are hopeful they will want to participate in a manner that is consistent with SWIMA’s objectives to protect the integrity of sports betting.

Are SWIMA members subjects to any rules on how they interact with each other and with the Association?
Each SWIMA member is required to sign a Code of Conduct that addresses issues such as confidentiality, conflicts of interest, cooperation with stakeholders and an obligation to report certain suspicious activity. The overriding objective of each member is to work together to assist all stakeholders in fully investigating suspicious and potentially corrupt or unethical activity so as to benefit the risk management efforts of the sporting industry.

Does it compromise SWIMA that its members are bookmakers? Can it still be impartial?
It is not a question of SWIMA being compromised by having bookmakers as members. In fact, it would be impossible for SWIMA to be effective WITHOUT having sportsbook operators as members. For integrity in sport to be upheld there has to be a mechanism for HOW the data from bookmakers can be shared to identify if something potentially improper is happening or has happened.SWIMA performs the “collection of evidence” function with respect to sports betting data which is an essential component of the integrity process in regard to ensuring the integrity of sport.

Can you explain how SWIMA then fits into the overall framework for identifying possible match-fixing and then on to a subsequent investigation/prosecution? Can it only work on a state level or also on a national or international level?
SWIMA’s mission is to assess betting reports submitted by our members and in certain instances where the behavior is deemed to be suspicious when viewed in its totality, it will be escalated to the appropriate government offices. In the first instance that will likely be the state gaming regulators/law enforcement and, in a perfect world, the sports leagues in an appropriate manner. Obviously in certain cases, just as you see today for other gaming cases, if the investigation become multi-state or international, then it is likely that state authorities will then will join up with Federal and/or International agencies. I would note that this escalating approach between State and Federal jurisdiction is nothing new; this is how it works today for regulated gaming in the US. What is new is that now there is significantly more regulated sports betting since the repeal of PASPA, and that it is now happening across multiple States. Hence the creation of SWIMA as a very practical, commonsense way to unite the various stakeholders in the US sports betting market who are committed to ensuring the integrity of all sporting events.

Image: The Royal Gazette