Canadian Gaming Summit: A unified strategy on competition manipulation

June 22, 2023 9:38 PM

Canadian Gaming Summit: A unified strategy on competition manipulation

Photo: CDC Gaming Reports
  • Mark Keast, CDC Gaming Reports
June 22, 2023 9:38 PM
  • Mark Keast, CDC Gaming Reports
  • Canada
  • From the Floor

Competition manipulation presents a significant potential integrity risk to sports organizations and their regulated betting partners, which is why the topic was front and center at last week’s Canadian Gaming Summit in Toronto. And that was borne out earlier this week, when the NFL doubled down on educating players on the league’s gambling policy, in light of recent player violations, including an investigation into one player allegedly placing bets on his own team.

One panel discussion at the Summit featured Jason Foley-Train, consultant for International Betting Integrity Association; Scott Grant, manager of competition manipulation for the Canadian Center for Ethics in Sport; George Rover, managing partner of Princeton Global Strategies; Sebastian Jedrzejewski, sports betting compliance specialist at the Alcohol & Gaming Commission of Ontario; and Katherine Henderson, chief executive officer of Curling Canada. Together, they dove into the importance of education on integrity for sports teams and the potential wins for the industry as education becomes more established.

One of the benefits, if if can be called that, that Ontario accrued in its first year as a competitive regulated market was an issue with betting on UFC that blew up last December. The controversy surrounded insider betting by UFC personnel and concerns about suspicious betting around a Nov. 5 fight – specifically, an allegation that inside information from a coach was being fed to bettors resulting in the fixing of a match.

The AGCO announced that regulated Ontario sports-betting operators could no longer offer and accept UFC bets. After an investigation and changes implemented by UFC, betting on the sport was reinstated in Ontario. Those were difficult discussions with operators, AGCO CEO Tom Mungham said last week, but it was trial by fire for the new market and a lot was learned.

The AGCO regulates sports betting, but not sports itself, but the two are inextricably linked, Jedrzejewski said. “There can’t be integrity in betting on sports without those sports themselves having integrity.”

Operators must sign up for integrity monitors, which flow through to the AGCO’s investigations and enforcements branch.

“Through the regulation of sports betting, we’ve brought the information regarding these bets on sports here in Ontario out of the shadows and into regulation and improved detection, and linked the information on suspicious betting to the sports themselves, so they can conduct their own investigations or perform a potential criminal investigation related to that,” he said. “We’re seeing that the action we take to protect the players and ensure the integrity of sports betting has a residual impact.”

Case in point: The UFC updated its code of conduct.

Henderson says Curling Canada has been working on very clear policies for participants who have the ability to influence a game in the wide breadth of Curling Canada events to understand match manipulation and their responsibilities around it, while taking certain courses about it and signing off on the policies and a code of conduct. “Nobody walks in the doors or steps on the ice until they’ve taken those courses,” she said.

Rover said the AGCO was in touch with gaming enforcement in New Jersey, where he’s based, during the UFC situation, a good example of the need of stakeholders in different jurisdictions to work together.

Foley-Train said that in many jurisdictions, a situation like the one that played out in Ontario would have resulted in the UFC’s permanent removal as a betting market.

“A credit to the AGCO that they took this evidence-based approach,” he said. “The problem we have is a lot of knee-jerk reactions in jurisdictions around the world. Ontario is taking the best-practice models from around the world and putting them into practice here.”

The importance of education can’t be overstated, Grant said. CCES’s online education is two-fold. One is a basic understanding of what competition manipulation is, what it entails, how people can be impacted, and is available to the entire Canadian sports community (25,000 completions of that course to date). The second is a policy template that can be used by Canadian sports organizations like Curling Canada, customized and adapted to their sport.

“What we want to avoid is anyone captured under the jurisdiction of Curling Canada not being aware of the rules that apply to them,” he said.

Henderson added that at the curling level, they’re finding “a lot of well-meaning people who don’t really understand how [the education] applies to them,” and there needs to be greater awareness raising around risks and harms with athletes.

“Some don’t realize that some of the things they can be doing is unintentional insider information,” she said. “We have to make sure that everybody in the whole ecosystem understands and the further you get away from the national body, the harder it gets to educate and enforce.”

Where it will get more challenging is in live betting, mid-game, where it’s more “granular” – in football, if there are going to be three fumbles, as an example. In-game betting will make it even more difficult for sports associations and leagues, integrity monitors, and regulators to figure out and prove those cases.