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Match-Fixing Issue is Brewing in Canada, Caution Experts

More than a year since the start of the regulated iGaming market in Ontario has passed and the province is reaping the rewards of it, but gambling experts are concerned. Recently specialists said the immense sports betting expansion could lead to a match-fixing problem. This is due to the lack of exact laws to tackle such activities which can occur via sports wagering sites.

Over the last few years, Canada has seen tremendous growth in its sports wagering department, starting off with the decriminalization of single-event betting in August 2021. This paved the way for the opening of the first-of-its-kind iGaming market for private operators in Ontario. The market attracted plenty of interest and brought it more than CA$1 billion in revenue for its first year.

Issue Will Only Get Bigger

During the closing panel at the 2023 Symposium on Competition Manipulation and Gambling in Sport last Wednesday, Professor Richard McLaren shared his concerns regarding the Ontarian and Canadian markets. He said the province must prepare for a potential match-fixing issue while noting that the problem is still in its infant stages. But he is alarmed that it will only get bigger.

According to the Sportradar Group AG, the number of suspicious matches worldwide was 1,212 in 2022. But North America did not see a rise in those games and had 24 in 2022. However, there were some incidents involving high-profile athletes in the U.S. On top of that, Canada has previously had its fair share of problems, as there were claims of match-fixing in its soccer league.

Meanwhile, Chris de Sousa Costa, treasurer and board member at AthletesCAN, which is the association of the country’s national team sportspeople, said that every organization should have some sort of pan-Canadian policy. He added if those organizations believed that match manipulation was not a part of their sport, it would be eventually down the road and measures must be taken early.

Jeremy Luke, president and CEO of the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport also agreed as he believes match-fixing is a real issue. He noted that the problem was coming from the sporting industry, and organizations had an obligation to act on it. He wants a pan-Canadian model, where that type of policy would apply to all sports in the same sort of way that the Canadian Anti-Doping Program does.

Ads are Also Problematic

But with the increase in availability and popularity of sports betting in Ontario, the province is also dealing with another issue – the bombardment of betting ads during sports games. Parents and experts from the province are worried about its effect on children, which is why the Ban Ads for Gambling campaign has been kicked off and calls for the removal of all gambling ads from hockey games.

Meanwhile, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario, which regulated the online sector for iGaming is working on a fix. In April it proposed banning sports athletes from featuring in such gambling endorsements. In its proposal, the regulator has also suggested prohibiting the use of cartoon figures, symbols, role models, social media influencers, celebrities or entertainers.