The case for sports betting data standards

The International Betting Integrity Association (IBIA) sets out its reasons for developing and promoting minimum standards for the collation and sale of sporting event data to regulated betting operators. By Khalid Ali, chief executive, IBIA

Accurate, reliable and transparent sporting event data is imperative for betting operators and ensuring that the data supply chain is robust and secure has become a central issue for the responsible regulated operators that IBIA represents. Those operators cover many of the largest regulated operators in the world and account for a significant share of the global sports betting market.

With such data principally generating in-play sports betting markets, and with in-play growth now accounting for more than half of online sports betting activity, its importance is readily apparent.

The provision and use of sporting event data has therefore become an increasingly important aspect of the regulated betting market, driven by global consumer demand for product choice and access.

The security and integrity of that data has correspondingly taken on increased significance and IBIA announced its intention to develop a set of minimum data collation standards in May, and which acknowledged a general lack of formal regulation and licensing in aspects of the data supply chain. Following discussions with stakeholders, IBIA has now set out those data collation standards.

The document, which is available on IBIA’s website, is focused on three key areas: personnel vetting and training; the data collation process; and data integrity and reporting. Within these sections are a range of requirements seen as important working practices in the collation of data, such as ensuring that data collectors are well-trained, avoiding potential conflicts of interest and maintaining the security of event data.

With regard to the latter, the document encourages data suppliers and their betting operator clients to interact by putting in place contractual provisions, regarding the source, accuracy and reliability of any data. This may include issues such as: how that data has been generated e.g. a person at the venue or TV pictures; and the speed, latency and process for transmission of that data.

The integrity reporting section is of particular interest for IBIA and its members and, as it states, upholding and protecting the reliability and credibility of sporting data is of paramount importance for us. That section promotes that a detailed risk assessment should be conducted on any sporting events and competitions on which data is collated, with ongoing monitoring and review.

Furthermore, where any data integrity issues are identified, that all parties in that data supply chain and any other relevant integrity stakeholders must be informed immediately, an investigation process conducted, and the results and remedial measures shared with those parties.  The data supplier is also expected to exchange information and engage in any related integrity investigations.

The data supply chain involves many reputable companies and there may be some within that circle that believe that their own internal protocols will serve to address any sporting event data integrity concerns.

IBIA and its members do not take that view. Whilst we are not saying that there is a persistent integrity issue in the data supply chain, there have been examples of clear failings which have had an adverse financial impact on responsible sports betting operators.

In a global environment where sporting event data is an increasingly critical process for the creation of betting markets, but which unlike betting remains predominately unregulated, prevention is better than cure.

IBIA believes that data standards are an effective means of achieving an approach which best serves to protect the integrity of sport, its data, betting markets generated by that data and consumers enjoying those products. No data approach is immune from potential corruption, but measures can and should be taken to guard against illicit activity and effective controls can minimise any risks.

The association hopes that data providers and those sports selling the rights to their data will therefore see the benefit of utilising a set of robust universal standards. The alternative, already raised in some circles, involves regulating the collation of data. This may come to pass in time; for now, however, there appears significant value for all concerned in the supply chain to demonstrate that suitable market protection measures are in place and independently audited and verified as IBIA proposes.

The feedback that we have received to date has been overwhelmingly positive. Many recognise that the danger to the integrity of sporting event data persists and coordinated action is an effective countermeasure. Ultimately, our core aim is to benefit all concerned in the data supply chain.

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