Kambi goes ‘Under the Hood’ again this week courtesy of Director of Operational Compliance Paul Finnigen, who focuses on the technology behind sports integrity and compliance.
Paul Finnigen (Director of Operational Compliance, Kambi): The future of sports betting hinges on the crucial element of trust that consumers must place in sporting events. The role that Kambi and other sportsbooks around the globe play in the detection of sports manipulation is immensely important. Safeguarding sports from manipulation is not only essential for the ongoing health of worldwide sporting competitions but also for upholding the integrity of the betting industry.
Leveraging extensive sporting data and the expertise of a 24/7 sportsbook control team, Kambi achieved the distinction of Outstanding Contribution to Sports Betting Integrity at the 2021 Vixio Global Regulatory Awards and continues to lead the way in protecting sports integrity.
Match-fixing or manipulation can severely damage the reputation of the entire sports betting industry. By upholding sports integrity and compliance, the industry can demonstrate its commitment to fair play and ethical standards, mitigating reputational risks.
In this edition of Under the Hood, Kambi’s Director of Operational Compliance, Paul Finnigen, explores the intricate balance between the excitement of wagering and the importance of simultaneously upholding the integrity of the games we love. From the regulatory frameworks shaping the industry to the technological innovations employed to detect and prevent malpractices, Finnigen discusses the layers that are steering the course towards a responsible future for sports betting.
SBC: Why is sports integrity such an integral part of any successful sportsbook and how is Kambi set up to protect the games we love?
PF: First and foremost, because it impacts the integrity of our offering and in turn the trust of our partners’ customers, who deserve to get a fair run for their money. There is obviously also a financial impact when match fixing occurs. In addition, the increase in regulated markets has seen great strides in regulators setting expectations for suppliers and operators to have sufficient sports integrity controls in place, and to partner with integrity monitoring providers, such as the International Betting Integrity Association.
All these reasons directly impact our operators; they place a great deal of trust in Kambi in this area and it is also our responsibility to protect them. I don’t believe it is possible to be successful in regulated markets today without taking sports integrity seriously.
I’ve been at Kambi nearly 10 years and this has always been at the forefront of the way we work, with training provided to all sportsbook operations staff in identifying suspicious activity, stringent internal controls in place, and a dedicated team responsible for overseeing our sports integrity systems.
SBC: How do you monitor and report suspicious betting patterns or unusual activity that could indicate match-fixing or other integrity issues?
PF: Kambi has a 24/7 Sportsbook Control department overseeing our integrity system from detection to escalation, and prevention. Every bet struck on our platform is analysed from an integrity perspective. The team utilises real-time bet analysis from machine learning algorithms to support our sports experts in detecting suspicious activity, triggering in-depth investigations where required.
Activity deemed suspicious is escalated to our partners and regulators impacted, in addition to our external integrity partners. The team also maintains an extensive integrity database which supports self-regulation in the form of placing limitations on offerings involving sporting actors we believe may pose a risk.
SBC: How do you adapt and remain compliant with changing regulations and industry standards?
Kambi is now active in 40+ regulations and we have seen a trend towards increased regulatory nuance. This can undoubtedly be challenging. The speed in which we are entering new markets, and that markets are regulating, requires us to be dynamic both operationally and technically. When developing in-house tools, we needed to shift our thinking from fixing individual regulatory challenges as they appeared, to taking a long-term global view – as we expand, what challenges may we face and how do we build tools flexible and scalable enough to adapt quickly.
We try to stay ahead of future changes by speaking directly with regulators and are part of the conversation of where regulation should go next. Our reputation and expertise mean regulators trust us as a knowledgeable voice in this discussion.
SBC: What is the technology and software under the hood that enables Kambi to do so and how has this technology evolved in recent years?
PF: An example of how our technology has evolved is our offering manager tool that controls the sports offering in each jurisdiction in line with regulations. It became apparent pre-PASPA that our former solution was not going to be flexible or scalable enough to cope with the increased regulatory demands.
We therefore invested significant development resources on building a tool in which offering compliance rules can be configured against a series of regulatory data points stored within our system. Rather than a member of the compliance team needing to repeatedly make decisions on the sports, leagues, participants and bet offers that can be offered, the team now creates a compliance rule to empower the offering tool to make decisions in a semi-automated way.
Rules can be applied granularly, even down to an individual betting outcome. If a regulation does not allow offering local collegiate teams, the tool will block this in a defined regulation considering the college state tag within our system, without negatively impacting the offering in any other regulation.
Similar sentiments apply to blocking bet offers for sport participants who are under 18, or if the league comes from a governing body that is not part of a state’s approved offering, for example. The new solution is significantly more flexible and scalable to the point that we are confident in being able to handle even the most challenging offering-related regulations, better protecting our partners even if the number of regulated markets we are active in significantly increases.
SBC: What trends are you seeing with regards to suspicious event alerts? Is there a general upward/downward trend?
PF: We are seeing an upwards trend in integrity alerts year-on-year, which is undoubtedly positive – more alerts mean more collaboration and visibility. As the number of regulated markets increases, and in turn black market activity decreases, I would expect that we continue to see more suspicious activity identified and investigated. Of course, not all integrity alerts are ultimately deemed suspicious. Of all the integrity alerts Kambi receive from integrity partners, we observe suspicious activity in less than 5% of cases.
We continue to see a trend in suspicious activity occurring more frequently in the lower levels of sport. We see most integrity alerts in low level soccer, closely followed by low level tennis. Interestingly, esports is third on our list in terms of number of integrity alerts. I believe this is partly due to the lack of an overarching governing body meaning that each organiser has different standards and levels of education for participants in match fixing. The Esports Integrity Coalition are doing some great work in trying to support this and push for match-fixing controls to be improved across the sport.
How important is collaboration with regards to sports integrity, both with industry and non-industry bodies?
PF: Kambi works closely with many integrity partners including regulators, sporting federations, integrity monitoring providers, data providers and operators to detect, report and prevent suspicious activity, and I believe such collaboration is essential. Just this week we took a call with the English Football Association to discuss recent integrity cases and learn more about their involvement in the process.
Modern day sports betting consumers demand an expansive 24/7 product and combatting match fixing on that scale requires input from all stakeholders. Kambi’s global footprint is invaluable in helping us to identify suspicious activity across many markets, and our operators benefit from the scale of our operation.
As an example, we power market leaders in Colombia who, as you would expect, see a lot of action on Colombian soccer. We may identify suspicious activity on a Colombian soccer event before it becomes apparent in other markets, and we can then remove the event for our network and escalate accordingly before most of our operators have even been impacted.
The same applies for other sports and leagues where local insight can be incredibly beneficial. Integrity monitoring providers also play an essential role in providing a wide scale view on suspicious activity.
Paul Finnigen Director of Operational Compliance @ Kambi Group