Sports are a source of joy (and sometimes heartbreak) for athletes and their fans, and sports teams are a point of pride for the schools, towns, and nations they represent. The FBI’s Integrity in Sport and Gaming Initiative was developed to protect athletes and sporting institutions in the United States from criminal threats and influences.
Crimes that can touch the sporting world include:
- Illegal gambling and illegal sports betting operations
- Match fixing, bribery, and corruption
- Extortion and threats
Our mission is to identify, combat, and disrupt the criminal activities that degrade the integrity of sports and competition and erode public confidence in these cherished institutions. The FBI is working in partnership with sports leagues and sports governing bodies, international law enforcement, and independent watchdog groups to identify illegal activity and bring charges against criminal actors.
Education is also a key part of the FBI’s work in this area. Agents and analysts regularly meet with athletes and teams to help them understand the ways they may be approached or affected by criminal actors. By connecting with athletes and sporting institutions, the FBI can help athletes and teams protect themselves and encourage the reporting of suspicious or illegal activity.
The laws around sports betting in the United States have evolved rapidly since the U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2018 to overturn the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992, a federal law that, with limited exceptions, barred states from legalizing sports betting. Although some forms of sports betting are now legal, illegal sports betting remains widespread and has real consequences for the safety of the American public and for the integrity of our sporting institutions.
As a federal law enforcement agency, the FBI investigates violations of federal criminal statutes, including those involving organized crime and illegal gambling operations. Individuals engaged in illegal gambling may unwittingly be funding organized crime activity or become vulnerable to violence and extortion.
The Rodchenkov Anti-Doping Act was signed into law in 2020. The act made it a violation of federal law to use prohibited substances or methods to influence a major international sporting competition. Essentially, it makes doping a type of fraud because it deprives other competitors of fair opportunities to further their athletic careers or sports seasons. The act grants the United States the ability to enforce its provisions at any competition in which U.S. athletes participate with three or more athletes from other countries. The competition must also receive financial support from an organization that does business in the United States—this can include a television or radio broadcast in the United States.
The Horseracing Safety and Integrity Act was also signed into law in late 2020. This new law standardizes training and racing safety standards.
Man Sentenced for Threatening Athletes and Their Family Members
In February 2020, the Department of Justice filed charges against Benjamin Tucker Patz, known as “Parlay Patz,” for transmitting threats in interstate or foreign commerce. According to FBI investigators, Patz sent text and social media messages to several college and professional athletes and their loved ones. The messages often used racial slurs and obscenities and made graphic threats to kill or harm the recipient.
Further investigation showed that Patz, an avid sport better who had gained some attention for his wagering success, may have threatened athletes who played in games on which he had lost money. Patz pleaded guilty in March 2020 and was sentenced to three years of probation. He is also banned from any future gambling or betting activities.
State laws differ on what betting activity is allowed, and some websites that appear legitimate may be legal for bettors in other countries, but not for bettors in the United States.
It is the responsibility of every individual to make sure they wager legally and responsibly, adhering to all applicable laws in their jurisdiction.
Organized crime groups run illegal gambling operations, including online sportsbooks, to generate revenue for other criminal activities, such as human, drug, and weapons trafficking.
In fact, the American Gaming Association estimates Americans bet $150 billion annually in the black market, potentially funding illicit activities.
The FBI prioritizes investigations targeting these organized crime groups to disrupt and dismantle their operations.
Beyond the possibility of funding organized crime activity, bettors who wager with illegal bookmakers put themselves at risk of extortion and violence if they cannot repay debts. Illegal betting can also lead bettors to other criminal activity, such as tax evasion and money laundering, due to the nature of illicit financial gains.
Tips to Protect Yourself
- Stay informed of applicable federal, state, and local laws to ensure you are betting through a legal sportsbook operator.
- To help address this crime, the FBI encourages anyone with information about illegal sports betting operations to submit a tip online or report it to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3). Tips can be kept anonymous.
- Read more on betting legally and responsibly and locate resources to address problem gambling through the American Gaming Association.
Who We Are
The Integrity in Sport and Gaming (ISG) Initiative is housed within the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division. ISG coordinators are in place within each FBI field office to conduct outreach to local athletes and teams and to support investigations into illegal sports gambling and sports corruption cases.