As legalized sports betting expands across the United States, there’s been an increase in fan anger over lost bets. As a result, some teams are turning to a Boston-area security company to safeguard athletes and employees.
Raysecur of Boston is working with the Houston Astros and Washington Commanders, as well as a roster of Fortune 100 companies, to provide security services for physical mail. Recent social media threats to athletes by sports bettors are an indication that threats have been increasing toward sports figures and teams.
Now that online sports betting in Massachusetts is live, Raysecur could soon be providing services in its own backyard.
It starts with social media
The overwhelming majority of sports bettor are good fans who never pose a risk, and never blame a team or athlete for a lost bet. But, with more markets opening in the country, there are bound to be an increase in negative interactions between a few upset fans and athletes/teams.
In an exclusive interview with Will Plummer, Chief Security Office for Raysecur, we learned that social media is often the first step in what turns out to be threatening behavior toward athletes.
“[Sports betting] opens the field to a whole new range of angry people with a brand new motivation. It’s not just ‘I love this team or that team,’ it’s now ‘I lost my paycheck over it.'”
Clients of Raysecur employ the company’s proprietary mail scanning hardware and software systems, and get training to identify threats at the mailroom. Plummer explains that a disgruntled person will often start by tweeting a negative comment, and that can escalate to sending a letter that elevates the anger.
“The teams need help. They need someone to give advice,” Plummer says.
Social media has already played a big part in the launch of MA sports betting, and its role figures to stay relevant as the market matures.
Why is social media anger and violent outbursts at an arena so dangerous? Because a small cadre of people can instigate trouble.
“When we look at [sports violence in] Europe,” Plummer explains, “we see that 10 to 12 people can cause 10 to 12,000 people to storm the field.”
Forward-thinking organizations like the Houston Astros are already taking proactive measures to adopt new x-ray technologies from Raysecur to ensure staff can efficiently screen player mail and detect threats before they get to the athlete. The Raysecur system even provides live video feeds to security staff off-site.
Raysecur working with multiple leagues
According to Plummer, Raysecur has had discussions with both the NFL and NBA. Specifically, Raysecur has presented the changing landscape to those leagues, which have very public personalities who communicate with fans via social media.
“There’s always stuff out there that makes [security] better,” Plummer says. “MLB, NFL, [and the] NBA mandate what security must be in place. There should be something that encourages increase in security for players.
“When Covid lifted, we started seeing fans acting more aggressive: running on the court, going after players. [To the angry fan], it’s not the team that made me angry, it’s that one guy, because I lost money.”
Usually it starts with a Tweet or an email to a high profile individual, and unfortunately a trigger event could be a response from that athlete. That response can cause a reaction. Or, if the athlete ignores the message, it might still trigger the fan, but that response can take longer. With Raysecur systems, a team can ban that fan from mailing or otherwise interacting with the sports team.
To halt escalated behavior, Raysecur helps the Astros and other clients identify suspicious mail.
“I spent 25 years in the U.S. Army in the bomb squad, [and I’ve] taken what I learned, from threat identification and risk assessment, and applied it to corporate and other verticals.”
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Assessing possible threats
With the Astros, Raysecur’s systems scan every item mailed to the team, the front office, the players, or any employee. As Plummer explains, the mail system can be a vulnerability because most people have come to trust it due to familiarity and convenience.
“The threat is strange, because everyone is trained to just go to their mailbox and carry a package into their home. When you transfer that to the workplace, [it’s] not the same,” Plummer says.
“If your company is contentious [or] in the news cycle a lot, people [can] find a grudge.”
The threats aren’t always physical, they can be ideological or fanatical. For many corporate clients the types of mail intercepted include manifestos, white collar threats, or gripes that border on obsession.
All in all, Raysecur has a lot to look into, and it will be interesting to see how the company develops as sports betting continues to expand across the US.
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