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Las Vegas company joins sports betting gold rush

8th November, 06:23

Matthew Holt is founder of Las Vegas-based U.S. Integrity, poses for a portrait in his office, Thursday, Oct. 24, 2019. U.S. Integrity, which counts sportbooks and college athletic conferences among its clients, monitors social media, tracks the records of referees and examines the movement of betting lines, among other data, to identify trends that could indicate something amiss.

Matthew Holt recognized the proliferation of legal sports betting as a modern-day gold rush and quickly staked his claim, launching a Las Vegas company that works with teams, leagues and sportsbooks to detect possible cheating or irregularities.

"What do you do in a gold rush?" Holt asked rhetorically. "You sell picks and shovels. That's what we're doing, and we're really darn good at it."

U.S. Integrity, founded in 2017, monitors social media, tracks the records of referees and examines the movement of betting lines, among other data, to identify trends that could indicate something amiss. If there are irregularities in a game -- whether on the part of a player or a referee -- Holt is confident his team of analysts will find it.

"Essentially, our clients all get reports every week on their events, and they can use it for whatever they want," Holt said.

"We track insider information and do the most robust officiating monitoring there is," he said. "We track every single ref in college football. You can see every penalty and what its impact was on the game. We're looking for suspicious activity and what connections there might be with that activity."

After graduating from Morehead State University in Kentucky with a degree in sports business management, Holt moved to Las Vegas in 2005 and started working for the DonBest sports handicapping service. He later joined what is now GC Technology, a sportsbook operator.

But the year before a law banning nationwide sports betting was overturned in 2018, Holt began thinking about starting his own company. Since then, legal sports betting has expanded to 18 states, with the number expected to grow.

"I saw that there was going to be a real need for sportsbook operators, leagues and universities to have somebody in the middle," Holt said. "There was going to be a need for somebody to work solely in the integrity and fraud-prevention area."

Today, the list of U.S. Integrity's clients includes UNLV and about 30 other colleges and universities, the Las Vegas Lights soccer team, the Pac-12 and Big 12 conferences and the National Basketball Association, Holt said. The company is also in talks with a couple of NFL teams.

One of the biggest coups for the young company was in July 2018, when it secured a contract with the Southeastern Conference, the league that boasts powerhouse college football schools like Alabama, LSU, Florida and Georgia.

The company, which has about a dozen employees, also has working relationships with gaming regulators such as the Nevada Gaming Control Board and law enforcement agencies, including the FBI.

"The board and U.S. Integrity use our best efforts to work together to prevent the manipulation of sporting events in order to protect the integrity of sports and sports competitions," Gaming Control Board Chairwoman Sandra Douglass Morgan said in a statement.

Beyond data analysis, the company also offers best-practice guidelines to protect games.

Brett Lashbrook, owner and CEO of the Las Vegas Lights, said Holt made a locker-room visit to talk to the players about gambling.

"Being in Las Vegas, we are under a microscope and we want to ensure our players understand the landscape around sports gambling," Lashbrook said. "I'm a huge believer that sports gambling makes everything in our industry better, but we still have to make certain we protect against any potential negatives."

Partially funded by former pro baseball player Ryan Howard's SeventySix Capital firm, U.S. Integrity has a high growth ceiling, Holt said.

"We're a business-to-business company with no competition," Holt said, noting that surely will change. "In the sports betting gold rush that's going on, everybody wants to take bets, make bets, build technology that takes bets or do media," he said.

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