It has been noted that with the rapid growth of gambling in Canada, there comes a great responsibility. One area of concern that has emerged is match-fixing.
The flourishing Ontario online sports betting and casino market, in particular, has raised alarms among experts. They foresee sinister forces looming in the industry. According to experts, match-fixing, also known as competition manipulation or match manipulation, poses a real threat. As sports betting expands in Canada, there is the worry that match manipulation will follow suit. These concerns arise from the absence of specific laws in Canada’s Criminal Code that address this behaviour.
Unsurprisingly, the topic was discussed at the recent Symposium on Competition Manipulation and Gambling in Sport in Toronto. The event, co-hosted by McLaren Global Sport Solutions Inc. and the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport, aimed to shed light on the issue.
Data from the integrity division of Sportsradar Group AG indicates a rise in suspicious matches worldwide. However, North America was one of the few regions where this number did not increase in 2022.
Jeremy Luke, president and CEO of CCES, previously expressed concerns about Canada’s lack of preparedness to prevent a sports betting scandal. It is crucial to take immediate action instead of waiting for the problem to escalate.
Before the legalization of single-event betting in June 2021, match-fixing was a significant concern among opposing parties. Some argued that the existing legislation was sufficient, while others strongly disagreed. Ultimately, the proponents of maintaining the status quo won the debate, and no changes have been made since.
Now, with nearly 50 operators in Ontario alone, generating billions in revenue, some governing bodies find it irresponsible to continue operating under the current legislation. They call for a nationwide policy to prevent and combat match manipulation.
Chris de Sousa Costa, treasurer and board member at AthletesCAN, stressed the need for buy-in from every national sports organization. Even if they believe match manipulation is not an issue in their sport currently, it may become one in the future. A proactive approach is essential, rather than a reactive one.
In response to the symposium, Doug Hood, the project director for gaming modernization at the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO), announced an increased focus on identifying match-fixing. However, AGCO acknowledges that identifying match-fixing involves collaboration among sportsbook operators, athletes, coaches, and administrators.
To address the issue, McLaren emphasizes the importance of a rigorously enforced and robust code for match-fixing, coupled with sanctions for those who violate the rules. As an expert in sports law, known for his involvement in prominent sports-related scandals, McLaren’s words carry significant weight.
Jean-Francois Reymond, IBIA education ambassador, emphasized the need to protect the integrity of athletes, as they often risk their careers and livelihoods due to a lack of awareness. The objective is to build a comprehensive program that safeguards the integrity of Canadian sports and the careers of its athletes.
The Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport (CCES), the symposium’s co-host, has already launched an e-learning course to educate Canadian Football League (CFL) players and personnel on the new CFL Match Manipulation Policy. This policy was implemented in response to the growing threats of match manipulation.
According to the CCES, a single CFL game can generate over $6 million in wagers globally, making the implementation of the match manipulation policy crucial to mitigate risks associated with such high volumes.
The policy covers corruption offences, their consequences, and guidelines on reporting incidents of match manipulation and cooperating in related investigations. The CCES collaborated with the McLaren group to develop a policy specifically tailored to the CFL and its personnel.
The CCES’s latest initiative follows a pilot project in collaboration with the Canadian Olympic Committee and six national sports organizations, including Badminton Canada, Canada Basketball, Canada Soccer, Curling Canada, Racquetball Canada, and Squash Canada. The joint effort, running until December 2023, aims to combat competition manipulation.
With over 150 representatives from various sectors participating, this year’s symposium concluded that a coordinated pan-Canadian approach, supported by comprehensive education, is urgently needed to prevent competition manipulation. McLaren highlighted the necessity for government, regulators, gaming operators, and the sports community to work together to develop an integrated regulatory framework to mitigate risks and protect vulnerable Canadian athletes.