Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Ottawa should tighten rules on match manipulation as legalized sports betting grows, experts say | CBC News

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Raptors player Jontay Porter’s lifetime ban from the NBA is just one sign that the rules governing Canada’s legal betting industry need to be strengthened to prevent widespread manipulation, experts say.

In an interview airing Saturday on CBC Radio’s The House, Jeremy Luke, president and CEO of the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport (CCES), said that while the Porter case suggests some positive aspects of the legal system, more needs to be done.

“It is positive that through the legalization of single event sport betting and the ability to regulate it, that we’re able to ensure policies are in place and that these things can be flagged and that they can be dealt with,” Luke told host Catherine Cullen.

“[But] it’s certainly a very serious risk that I think we’re falling behind with respect to … protecting the integrity of our sports and the safety of those who participate in sport.”

He said the threat posed by match manipulation to the integrity of professional sports — and the trust of sports fans — is similar to the threat posed by performance-enhancing drugs.

Professional sports leagues have been rocked recently by two high-profile cases related to betting. Porter was found to have violated the NBA’s betting rules by, among other things, betting against his own team. In the United States, police have charged baseball star Shohei Ohtani’s interpreter with bank fraud in relation to allegations that he stole from the L.A. Dodger to pay off gambling debts.

Toronto police have said they are not investigating the Porter case.

Luke said that almost three years after single-event sports betting was legalized in Canada, this country still lacks a comprehensive policy for national-level athletes like Olympians that articulates their obligations and restrictions on betting. On Wednesday — the same day the NBA banned Porter — the CCES published a draft policy that could be applied nationally in Canada.

Luke also said Canada should sign on to the Council of Europe’s Convention on the Prevention of Competition Manipulation, a treaty which would compel the creation of a framework, including laws, to protect sport from the threat of competition manipulation, such as match-fixing.

The House13:59Is Canada’s big bet on legalized gambling going sideways?

In the wake of Toronto Raptors player Jontay Porter’s ban from the NBA for violating gambling rules, CBC’s The House talks to Kevin Waugh, the Conservative MP whose private member’s bill made single-event sports betting legal in Canada, and Jeremy Luke of the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport about what should be done to prevent future scandals.

Declan Hill, an associate professor at the University of New Haven and an expert in match-fixing, told CBC’s Frontburner early this month that the stakes for sports leagues are incredibly high.

“They’ve really started to dance with the devil. And I’ve seen a graveyard of sports around the world that have been killed off by too-close links with gambling. Right across the continent of Asia are just a myriad of sports leagues that have just collapsed,” he said.

Hill pointed out that the Criminal Code does not have specific language on match-fixing, for example.

WATCH | Raptors player banned for betting violations  

Raptor Jontay Porter banned for life from NBA over betting violation

Toronto Raptors player Jontay Porter has been banned for life from the NBA after violating the league’s gambling rules. Investigators found Porter shared his health status and limited his playing time for betting purposes, and also placed bets on at least 13 NBA games using another individual’s online account.

In a statement issued to CBC News on Friday, Sport Minister Carla Qualtrough acknowledged the threat to sports integrity posed by competition manipulation and said the government is working with provincial, territorial and international partners on the issue. Qualtrough also noted the work done by the CCES on manipulation.

“Anyone in the sport system, be they an athlete, coach or administrator, who is engaged in this behaviour should be held accountable,” she said.

Luke told The House that Canada needs clear criminal laws on competition manipulation, especially since individuals rarely act alone and often work in tandem with others connected to organized crime.

The effort to legalize single-event sports betting in Canada goes back years, but the change was finally pushed through in 2021, when Bill C-218 gained royal assent. Conservative MP Kevin Waugh put forward that legislation.

In a separate interview on The House, Waugh said the Porter case showed the benefits of a legal betting regime that’s transparent to regulators and leagues.

“This will not be the first time this [happens], but I do think it does send a signal to athletes and to those of, let’s say, shady circumstances that want to fix sports … It does send a signal that people are watching this,” he said.

Waugh, a former sportscaster, said he didn’t regret the push for legalization but acknowledged that some additional changes should be considered. He said various provinces have formulated their betting industries differently, resulting in a range of advertising and betting landscapes.

“Legally, we only have one product in Saskatchewan,” he said. “Ontario is the wild wild West.”

Waugh said another aspect of the sports betting regime that needs a closer look is how the industry deals with addiction. Advocates have raised concerns about worsening gambling addictions in Canada thanks to widespread betting availability and advertising.

“I want to see some money [dedicated] to addictions,” he said. “And I think each province and territory that is involved in gaming should release those numbers, how much money you’re putting into addictions, because it is an area of concern.”

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