Integrity in Sports and Gaming
Sports are a source of joy (and sometimes heartbreak) for athletes and their fans, and our 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.
The crimes that can touch the sporting world include:
- Illegal gambling and illegal sports betting operations
- Match fixing, bribery, and corruption
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 sport leagues and sport 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.
Recent Shifts in Law
The Supreme Court’s 2018 decision in Murphy v. the National Collegiate Athletic Association gave individual states the ability to legalize sports betting. After this decision, many more U.S. states have voted to allow some form of wagering on sports. The FBI is concerned only with illegal sports betting (see below) and those who prey on the integrity of athletes or sporting institutions to gain an illegal advantage when betting.
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.
Who We Are
The Integrity in Sports and Gaming 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.
Illegal Sports Betting
Many states have legalized sports betting in recent years, but some apps and websites and betting activities are still unlawful. Some websites may be legal for bettors in other countries, but not for bettors in the United States.
Given the legal variations from state to state, it’s critical for bettors to understand and adhere strictly to applicable laws within their respective state. It is the responsibility of each better to ensure they wager legally and responsibly.
Illegal sports betting has real consequences for people who place and receive wagers—and for the safety of the American public. The American Gaming Association estimates Americans bet $150 billion annually in the black market, potentially funding illicit activities.
Organized crime groups often use the money made from illegal gambling to fund other criminal activities, like the trafficking of humans, drugs, and weapons. These operations may also be involved in tax evasion and money laundering.
Placing a wager with an illegal sports betting operations can also put individuals at risk of extortion and violence, which bookmakers may use to collect debts.
One of the ISG’s priorities is to investigate organized crime groups that operate illegal sports betting operations and disrupt and dismantle their activities.
Find more information on betting legally and responsibly and resources to address problem gambling through the American Gaming Association.
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.