Sat. Mar 2nd, 2024

Iowa DPS: sports gambling investigation data obtained legally

by Michael Howell

Wednesday, Jan 31st 2024

sports gambling iowa isu

The Iowa Department of Public Safety (DPS) says it believes they obtained data in its sports gambling investigation in a “constitutionally permissible manner”

“Ultimately it is up to the courts to decide,” a statement Wednesday from the Iowa DPS said. The department is under fire for its investigation that led to dozens of Iowa and Iowa State athletes being suspended or criminally charged.

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Recent court filings from some of the remaining athletes yet to take a plea deal in the case, allege an Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation agent performed illegal searches via a GeoFence placed at a University of Iowa dorm and athletic facility. They also allege some agents were misled in the scope of the investigation initially. One agent, Mark Ludwick, said in a deposition January 19 that he believed the agency conducted an illegal search by not getting a warrant first.

Ludwick also said in the deposition he thought the investigation was purely administrative, with targets being Fan Duel and Draft Kings and even assured Iowa State defensive lineman Isaiah Lee he wouldn’t be charged. Lee was later charged and Ludwick said his supervisors congratulated him on getting a confession from Lee.

Special Agent Brian Sanger is accused in court documents filed by defense lawyers for starting the search without getting a warrant. He said in depositions he “cannot remember why he decided to conduct the warrantless searches but that he was concerned about things such as people infiltrating Iowa’s sports teams to gain insider information or match fixing.”

Iowa DPS said Wednesday they conferred with legal counsel before using the tools to “GeoFence” the buildings to ensure they were legally allowed to do so. The department also says two county attorney offices (Johnson and Story counties) reviewed all the relevant investigation information before deciding to file the charges.

Iowa Code section 80.25A directs the Commissioner of public safety to establish a subdivision with the Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) “to be the primary criminal investigative and enforcement agency for the purpose of” enforcing Iowa’s gambling laws. Historically, these agents have worked in Iowa’s 19 casinos. With the legalization of sports betting in 2019 and its rapid growth since betting became legal on digital devices, DCI now has six agents dedicated to sports gambling. In 2023 alone, $2.4 billion in sports bets were placed in Iowa.

The evolution of gaming has given rise to emerging technologies that help regulate the industry and enforce the law. Iowa Administrative Rule 491-13.5 requires “the sportsbooks to implement location detection procedures to reasonably detect and dynamically monitor the location of a player attempting to place any wager” and to notify accountholders about information being gathered and shared.

Additionally, Iowa Code section 99F.7A requires sports wagering licensees to “employ reasonable steps to prohibit coaches, athletic trainers, officials, players, or other individuals who participate in an authorized sporting event that is the subject of sports wagering, from sports wagering.”

Analytical software programs developed by the licensees that provide mapping and anonymized data points were made available to the DCI to help identify anomalies suggesting suspicious or criminal activity that could undermine sports gambling in Iowa and ensure regulatory compliance.

Prior to using the tools provided, the Department of Public Safety conferred with legal counsel to ensure lawful access to and use of the technology. Two county attorney offices also reviewed all relevant investigative information before making the ultimate decision to file charges.

The Department traditionally does not comment on active investigations or litigation in an effort to ensure these matters are appropriately addressed by our justice system rather than the media. We believe the evidence was obtained in a constitutionally permissible manner. Ultimately it is up to the courts to decide. We want to reassure Iowans that the Department always strives to scrupulously uphold the laws and constitutions of the United States and the State of Iowa.

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