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Biometric Data: The Holy Grail of Sport Betting

The evolution of the sports betting industry has brought along with it the opportunity to commercialize the biometric data of an athlete. Bettors may soon be able to inform their wagers with athlete-specific data including heart rate, hormone levels and sleep patterns. As this technology and its applications become more widespread, stakeholders will need to consider how to balance the privacy of athletes with commercial interests in publishing and monetizing biometric data.

What is Biometric Data?

Biometric data commonly refers to body measurements and calculations relating to human characteristics, however, its legal definition varies by jurisdiction. Canada refers to biometrics as “the measurement and use of your unique body characteristics (e.g. fingerprints, retinas, facial structure, speech, or vein patterns).”[1] Similarly, in Europe, “data relating to the physical, physiological or behavioural characteristics of an individual which allow their unique identification, such as facial images or [fingerprint] data” all constitute biometric data.[2] Each state in the United States has adopted its own definition of biometric data. Some states like Illinois have a relatively narrow definition where they may be limited to the inclusion of fingerprints or iris scans. While other states have taken on a broader view more similar to the standard in Canada and Europe.

The integration of biometric data with sport analytics is revolutionizing how coaches and athletes approach performance optimization. According to Mark Gorski, Co-Founder and CEO of Sports Data Labs, athlete biometric data “can help [athletes] train more efficiently or change the way [they] do things in a match.”[3] As it stands, the use of biometric data in sports is currently limited to helping athletes develop more efficient training techniques and the early detection of injury but the ability to commercialize this information is now being considered.

How can Biometric Data be used for Sports Betting?

Biometric data offers sportsbook operators an exciting new way to engage sports bettors. As methods of tracking biometric data advance, it is becoming increasingly evident that there is potential for this data to be used to increase engagement and revenue for sportsbooks. The prospect of seeing an athlete’s heart rate flicker on your television screen while in a high-pressure situation adds an entirely new dimension to the fan experience. To achieve this, biometric technology providers are developing methods of tracking biometrics without interfering with the movements of an athlete. For example, providers have developed auto racing gloves that utilize sensors which track basic health metrics and sleeves for baseball pitchers to track strain and possible injury.

Balancing Privacy and Commercial Interests

While the prospect of using an athlete’s biometric data is exciting, its implementation in the sports betting industry may be challenging. In addition to the logistical concerns around the best way to publish the data, stakeholders interested in using biometrics must be granted consent by the athletes – the legal owners of the biometric data. In some jurisdictions, prospective stakeholders must also obtain the athlete’s consent for how the data will be used. The nature of consent required by law varies from place to place. Under the General Data Protection Regulation in Europe, interested stakeholders cannot make commercial use of biometric data without the consent of the individual who owns it. In essence, these stakeholders must sign a contract with each athlete individually. In some states and Canada, the law also assumes that an athlete’s biometric data and how it is used is owned by them. The key difference is that athletes can “contract out” their protection through collective bargaining agreements entered into between athletes and players associations. Considering the professional consequences for athletes that suffer injuries, it is understandable why players associations and individual athletes may be hesitant to provide the live publication of their biometric data. During a panel with Ron Segev at SiGMA Europe in 2022, Dr. Fabian Masurat highlights that “on the one hand it’s a possible option for a player to commercialize, get a contract with a sportsbook operator for example, on the other hand, it’s always the risk that something not normal is found out, and then you have your whole career at risk.”[4]

Most players associations recognize the importance of keeping the biometric data of an athlete confidential, however, they are also beginning to acknowledge the benefits of its commercial use. In order to balance concerns around privacy and commercial interests, players associations have started to develop “narrow classes” in which stakeholders can use an athlete’s biometric data. For example, some athletes and player associations will not allow stakeholders to track biometrics outside of when they are engaging in the sport. This means that collecting and using data from their sleeping patterns or pre-game hormone levels would be prohibited. This practice of creating narrow classes through contracts can potentially accommodate the privacy concerns athletes have with the commercial use of their biometric data.

The Future of Biometric Data and Sports Betting

There is huge growth potential for the sports betting industry through the incorporation of biometric data, but stakeholders must develop standards to balance commercial interests while respecting biometric data security provisions. Stakeholders in this industry will need to tackle this challenge while considering issues of exclusivity, the movement of athletes across jurisdictions, and the consequences if there are breaches of pertinent laws or regulations. Using biometric data in the sports betting industry will require a holistic approach involving the collaboration of lawyers, sports leagues, athletes and other major stakeholders to ensure that everyone’s interests are considered.

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***The above blog post is provided for informational purposes only and has not been tailored to your specific circumstances. This blog post does not constitute legal advice or other professional advice and may not be relied upon as such.**