Athlete Suspensions Show Sports Betting Policies In Canada ‘Work’

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Canada sports betting

With former Toronto Raptor Jontay Porter at the top of integrity conversations, the Canadian Gaming Summit held a discussion last month on the importance of regulated Canada sports betting markets.

While Porter now faces criminal charges connected to an alleged NBA betting scheme, a Canada sports betting integrity discussion barely touched on the former Toronto athlete. However, the panel, “Protecting Sports Betting Integrity: Making A Complex Ecosystem Work” at CGS highlighted the importance of regulated sports betting markets in uncovering existing issues.

“I’m not sure that it’s in the news a little more is evidence it’s happening more than it was before,” PointsBet Canada CEO Scott Vanderwel said. “It’s evidence the regulated ecosystems, as complex as they are, are doing more to identify and bring into light situations that might have previously been kept out of the public eye.”

Ontario sports betting system working

One of the reasons the commercial Ontario sports betting market opened in 2021 was to uncover any integrity issues in sports, said Doug Hood, project director of gaming modernization at the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario.

“Our goal when we set up a sports betting framework was to pull things out of the shadow and shine a light on it,” Hood said. “It was happening before and now we have information on it.”

Ontario sports betting regulators were quick to suspend UFC action in late 2022 due to integrity concerns. National media continues to highlight the increase in athlete suspensions related to gambling.

“These shouldn’t be negatives,” Vanderwel said of the integrity-related news stories. “It shows strong policies and programs work.” 

Sportsbooks want strong integrity

Vanderwel said there is a misconception circulating that leagues and sportsbooks might gain from inequity of information. 

“It is a losing equation if the integrity is not there for a sportsbook,” Vanderwel said. “It’s a complex system that trades on trust. If you don’t have integrity, we don’t have trust.” 

Athlete education at system’s core

Athletes are anywhere between two to 16 times more prone to problem gambling, according to Jean-François Reymond, an education consultant with the International Betting Integrity Association. And at the base level of sports integrity are the athletes, Vanderwel said. 

However, that is a complex issue when, on the first day of a training camp, the sports betting rules are among a long list of things they are learning, according to Scott Grant, manager of competition manipulation at the Canadian Center for Ethics in Sport

“Prior to regulation, how do we find an integrity concern? From a league perspective, it was a primitive rule before,” said Owen Welsh, vice president of gaming, sports betting and innovation at the Canadian Football League.

“Now it’s about how we get more advanced in how we’re tracking. We’re a lot more proactive in guiding our players along the way. Even though it’s more socially acceptable, it’s something you can’t do as a player.” 

Bigger regulated network helps 

Welsh said the CFL needs to continue to build out its network to help flag integrity concerns. Initially, Welsh expected any flags to come from Canada or the US

Instead, he said they come from around the world.

“The integrity issues hurt what we’re trying to build,” Welsh said. “It’s working with the right partners and being more proactive in the education of the players and helping them along the way to help us sleep better at night.” 

Photo by Shutterstock/Diego Grandi