West Virginia Bill To Audit Betting Touts Fails

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A West Virginia bill (HB 3232) that would have created a system to evaluate sports betting handicappers and touts failed to pass through the Senate before the end of the state’s 2023 legislative session. 

The goal of the bill, which was introduced by Rep. Clay Riley, was to add transparency to the industry. Which handicappers were acting in good faith? Which handicappers were misleading the public about their betting record?

“The people who are really good actors and doing good things and handicapping really well, they should be rewarded,” Riley told Sports Handle. “The people who are skewing results and not being completely honest, that’s not good for the industry.”

Riley told Sports Handle there was some confusion about his bill’s intent, which caused the process to slow down and left his bill sitting in the Senate Judiciary Committee when the legislative session ended Saturday night. 

Maryland effort still alive

While Riley’s effort fell short, Sen. Craig Zucker is making a similar push in Maryland. Zucker spoke to the Maryland Senate Budget and Taxation Committee last week about his bill. 

Zucker’s legislation, SB 261, would have the Maryland Lottery identity and select independent evaluators. Those evaluators would then audit sports betting handicappers and touts, hoping to add transparency to their overall credibility. 

“Really, this is a consumer protection bill,” Zucker said during the committee hearing. 

He seemed to want to ensure that content creators associated with major mobile sportsbooksBetMGM, Caesars Sportsbook, DraftKings, FanDuel, and PointsBet are among the eight active mobile platforms in Maryland — aren’t misleading the public. Zucker appeared willing to allow operators to agree voluntarily to have their in-house and affiliated partners audited, rather than having the bill create auditing mandates. 

Maryland’s crossover deadline is next Monday, putting a time crunch on the bill to make its way through the Senate in time to receive House consideration. 

The goal of the legislation

Chris Adams, the founder of SharpRank — a company that evaluates sports betting handicappers and would be a candidate to independently evaluate sports wagering touts for the Maryland Lottery –- spoke with Sports Handle about the Maryland legislation. 

“It’s no different than a financial statement audit or a health inspector grade, whereas performance isn’t what it’s after — it’s really after the consumer protection,” Adams said. “Are people who they say they are? Are they acting appropriately? And if so, great.”

The goal of the legislation isn’t to eliminate handicappers who lose, but rather those who are disingenuous. If a handicapper is only winning on about 40% of their picks with -110 odds on those bets, but they’re sharing picks for free and they’re honest about their record, they’d still be permitted to operate in Maryland. The legislation wants to shed light on “bad actors” — those who aren’t honest about their record (bets won, units won, etc.), yet solicit payment from customers. 

“The audit itself and the audit test itself have nothing to do with the performance of that handicapper,” Adams said.

If an audit confirms a handicapper is sharing accurate information about their picks, Adams says it would be up to the consumer to decide whether to follow the handicapper’s picks. 

How would it work?

Perhaps the biggest challenge with the proposed legislation is putting the idea into practice effectively. SharpRank, or another company in the space, would likely have to audit hundreds or thousands of different handicappers. 

“Depending on the demand for it, the scope can get very large, very quickly, because of how many people and platforms have those affiliate links,” Adams said. 

What happens when a handicapper is deemed a “bad actor” by SharpRank or another independent evaluator? How would Maryland, especially if it’s the only state with this legislation in place, actually prevent Marylanders from seeing the content produced by the misleading handicappers? What penalties could be imposed on a misleading tout? 

“I think, generally, it’s going to be up to the state,” Adams said. “A company like ours just does the work and returns the reports.”

In theory, eliminating disingenuous touts from the industry makes sense. Making that happen presents a tougher logistical challenge, but legislators like Zucker are interested in furthering the conversation to clean up that sector of the industry.


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