Sport industry experts and international law enforcement say match fixing poses an even bigger threat to the integrity of sport than doping.
By Angela Kryhul
Athletes, and everyone close to them, need better education about the dangers of match manipulation and gambling in sport. This was a key theme coming out of a sports industry symposium held in Toronto this past spring.
Hosted by the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport (CCES) and McLaren Global Sport Solutions (MGSS), the gathering was a pulse check a year after single-event sport betting became legal in Canada. The symposium drew global experts from sports federations, government, education, law enforcement, athlete advocates and more.
Here are some of the key takeaways from the two-day event.
A BIGGER ISSUE THAN DOPING
“It’s recognized that match fixing, manipulation of sports, is a global threat. A lot of experts say match fixing is potentially a bigger issue than doping. We really need to collaborate and cooperate in this space to tackle this efficiently. There’s no one stakeholder that can do this alone. That’s the basic reasoning behind the Macolin Convention. It’s a tool established by the Council of Europe, but it’s a global phenomenon. It’s open to everyone.”
— Chiel Warners, consultant, former Netherlands National Platform and Group of Copenhagen Vice-Chair
THE SLIPPERY SLOPE
“The problem with players betting is that it’s the slippery slope to actual corruption. Manipulators, who are controlled by betting syndicates, influence the athletes. If they try to tell the manipulator they’re not going to [match fix] anymore, that’s when the ugly side of the syndicates comes to the fore. I’ve seen situations where the families of the players are threatened and on occasion physical abuse of the player by the syndicate. The syndicates threaten to tell the [athlete’s sport] federation what’s going on. Rather than taking their lumps and dealing with the problem, they keep on going and are really trapped.”
— Richard McLaren, CEO, McLaren Global Sport Solutions Inc
“Just because a sport is at lower risk [of match manipulation] doesn’t mean the athletes should not be educated on this subject. I’m confident that a vast majority of athletes know the sanctions associated with doping control, because, in Canada, we have to go through [doping] training modules on a yearly basis. So why don’t we help our athletes become more informed [about match manipulation and gambling]? They may get a lifetime ban from their sport. [Match manipulation] is considered a criminal offence in a growing number of countries. This is something athletes should be aware of as they travel the world to represent our country.”
— Jacqueline Simoneau, two-time Olympian and member of the Canadian Olympic Committee’s Athletes’ Commission
“Gambling doesn’t occur in a silo. Sports and gambling are highly normalized in our society. There is a higher risk when individuals are gambling and using alcohol or cannabis, for entering into high-risk activity. We’ve developed specific education campaigns and programs for youth at high schools, colleges and universities, to get that message through. It’s absolutely essential, as we embark upon this kind of education, to take a culturally sensitive approach to understanding the values, beliefs and culture of the people we’re speaking to and developing education and information that is relevant and meaningful.”
— Shelley White, CEO, Responsible Gambling Council
“We had this one case, Benjamin Tucker Patz, who would spend large amounts of money on 10-game parlays, usually with heavy favourites. Well, he would try to influence the game by essentially sending threatening messages to players right before game time. There were extreme threats of violence. [It takes] a large amount of time and effort to investigate a case and even in this case, the individual was sentenced to 36 months of probation. I believe the industry will have to come up with protections because you are going to have people sending horrible messages to players and law enforcement does not have the resources to investigate every single threat.”
— Special Agent David White, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Chicago
OUT OF THE SHADOWS
“We always saw a regulated, competitive market as an opportunity to combat competition manipulation and other threats to sports integrity. One reason is that it gets sports betting out of the shadows. Before legalization, there was a thriving gray market in Ontario. One of our primary objectives was to get players into the regulated space. I’m happy to say that we’re at an 85.3% channelization rate of players that have played in the regulated market, after just one year of legalization. It means we’ve got intelligence about the operators and the industry, we know who’s coming into the market and that they have to meet extensive standards in Ontario, not just limited to sports betting. It also includes responsible gambling, cybersecurity and anti money laundering.”
— Doug Hood, project director, gaming modernization, Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario
BEHIND THE SCENES INVESTMENT
“We’re in the trust industry. Consumers will only spend their time, their entertainment experience with us because they trust the outcome. So much of what we do as an operator is really about building and securing that trust and ensuring it’s even stronger and more resilient. That’s why integrity monitors are a part of our ecosystem. Live gambling is the fastest growing category in sports betting today and represents about half of all bets we take on our platform. If it wasn’t for the types of investments we’re making in the platform—the AI and the ability to spot discrepancies—we’d never keep up.”
— Scott Vanderwel, CEO, PointsBet Canada
$14 BILLION: CANADA’S OVERALL BETTING MARKET, 2022 MOST POPULAR SPORTING EVENTS FOR BETTING IN CANADA
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Published October, 2023