Official betting has become front and center in the sports gambling conversation as leagues seek a role as primary stakeholders in state-regulated legal sports wagering. They want a share of the action, ideally via a direct handle-based fee but short of that, they support a mechanism allowing them to monetize their data. This quest has supplanted the integrity fee as leagues’ preferred method for getting their hands on the sports betting gold rush.
The term ‘official betting’ refers to bets based on real-time data from the leagues. There are two key players in the arena: Sportradar and Genius Sports, and each of the major US sports leagues have a relationship with one or the other. This is in addition to the traditional relationships that the leagues have with their own stats departments, a relationship which has grown alongside the demand for real-time data and live betting lines.
In the US, laws on what is officially referred to as official betting vary by state. The majority of states have no such requirement. In Illinois, for example, sportsbooks are required to use official data only for Tier 2 wagers, which include totalizators. In a totalizators bet, odds are changed in real-time according to the amount of money that is bet on each outcome. The higher the volume placed on an outcome, the lower the odds will be.
The use of official data for betting purposes is not without controversy. It is illegal to offer, accept or solicit a bribe to fix a game or event. The 1919 Black Sox Scandal, in which professional gambler Joseph J. Sullivan paid eight White Sox players (Oscar Felsch, Arnold Gandil, Shoeless Joe Jackson, Charles Risberg, Fred McMullin, George Weaver and Claude Williams) to throw the World Series, is often cited as one of the most notorious examples of official betting.