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Canadian Match-Fixing Paper Suggests Sports Betting Revenue Share

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A new funding mechanism in response to the threat posed by match-fixing is a novel idea, and it comes as Canadian sports organizations have become more concerned about competition manipulation amidst the growth of legal wagering in the country.

Mar 14, 2024 • 18:14 ET

• 5 min read

Some of the money Canadians lose every month at online sportsbooks should be set aside to help fund the fight against match-fixing, the risk of which is rising alongside the growth of legal betting. 

So suggests a white paper published Thursday by the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport (CCES) and McLaren Global Sport Solutions (MGSS), which sums up their May 2023 Symposium on Competition Manipulation and Gambling in Sport (that Covers participated in) and provides recommendations for combatting match-fixing. 

MGSS is a professional services firm geared toward sports integrity and named after its co-founder and CEO, Richard McLaren, an expert in sports law. The CCES is an independent not-for-profit organization that administers the Canadian Anti-Doping Program and monitors ethical threats to domestic sports, among other things.

The symposium held by the two organizations was in response to the concerns raised in the wake of Canada decriminalizing single-game sports betting in 2021, which was followed by Ontario launching a competitive market for iGaming in 2022.

Those two policy changes created a large and growing sports betting scene in Canada but also ratcheted up the fear of match-fixing in connection with the enhanced wagering opportunities. 

“Perhaps the most serious negative impact Canadian sport is facing is an increased risk of competition manipulation, or match fixing, that comes with an increase in betting on sport, especially prop betting,” the white paper states. 

There are calls in the report for a national policy on competition manipulation, a working group to advise on that policy, and more education for athletes and coaches about the threat of match-fixing. 

But also suggested in the report is the development of “a revenue sharing system from the proceeds of sport gambling that ensures an appropriate percentage of revenue is allotted to sport, with an emphasis on community sport development and harm reduction.”

Canadian provinces collect millions of dollars annually from sports wagering within their borders. However, the request for a new funding mechanism in response to the threat posed by match-fixing is a novel idea, and it comes as Canadian sports organizations have become more concerned about competition manipulation amidst the growth of legal wagering in the country.

The white paper says it is “not clear if and/or how” sports organizations derive any direct revenue from wagering on their events — most leagues are content with increased interest and the opportunity it provides for advertising and broadcast deals — and the report calls for dedicated funding from all the betting going on.  

“Provinces are seeing the benefits of additional revenue through taxation thanks to these massive new revenue streams, however; it remains largely unknown if or how any of the money, either through the operators or the provincial governments, is flowing back into sport or being used to support initiatives designed to prevent competition manipulation,” the white paper states. 

A ‘vulnerable’ population

There is no guarantee that Canadian lawmakers or regulators hear and act on the concerns raised by the two groups, but the message is similar to some of the worries voiced in and around the decriminalization of single-game sports wagering in Canada in 2021.  

Moreover, MGSS and the CCES are also flagging the financial need at a time when sports betting is growing across Canada; in Ontario, for instance, more than $17 billion was wagered in the last three months of 2023, up 21% from the quarter before. 

Still, the boom in betting in Canada and the United States has not necessarily driven a corresponding boom in attempted match-fixing. Sportradar reported recently that there were just 35 suspicious matches in North America in 2023, 13 more than in 2022. Regulation of sports betting also allows sportsbook operators to share information about any suspicious wagering with state and provincial authorities.

Nevertheless, the white paper warns that a loss of public trust in the integrity of a sport can lead fans to stop watching it entirely. The report also suggests the normalization of sports betting increases the possibility of an uninformed athlete letting slip inside information or wagering on their own sport without realizing they are violating any rules.

“Many amateur Canadian athletes don’t earn a living wage, leaving them vulnerable not only as targets for fixers, but also to the temptation of betting on their own competitions,” the white paper notes. “The combination of a difficult financial situation and a lack of education about competition manipulation elevates the risk of harm to athletes. The lack of institutional protections and mandatory education leaves the Canadian sport community exposed.”

The to-do list

There are five recommendations in the report:

  • A national policy for competition manipulation overseen by an independent entity.
  • Comprehensive education for athletes, coaches, and other participants regarding match-fixing. 
  • A national working group to offer advice about the national policy, share best practices, harmonize the policy’s implementation across the country, and open up lines of communication between stakeholders. 
  • The revenue-sharing system. 
  • That the Canadian government should sign and ratify the Macolin Convention, “the only rule of international law” on match-fixing. 

The white paper notes the CCES, Canadian Olympic Committee, and six national sports organizations are nearly finished with a pilot project that is testing out the effectiveness of a countrywide match-fixing policy, modeled after the anti-doping program. 

Furthermore, national sports groups across Canada have been toughening their policies to minimize the match-fixing threat. The Canadian Football League has even launched a competition manipulation policy and education program in partnership with MGSS and the CCES, the report notes. 

The wave draws nigh

Even so, the risk of match-fixing looms large in Canada. As was noted during the debate around single-game wagering, there is no specific anti-match-fixing language in the federal Criminal Code, although some experts believe other provisions could address those threats. Canada has also had issues in the past, namely, allegations of match-fixing in a domestic soccer league.

A few Canadian lawmakers have shown an interest in further regulation of the legal sports betting industry, particularly when it comes to the sector’s advertising practices. The white paper may find a receptive audience for its recommendations, especially with March Madness about to begin, the NHL playoffs within sight, and Paris set to host Canadian athletes at the Summer Olympics later this year.

“Competition manipulation is the tsunami heading toward Canadian sport, threatening not only the integrity of sporting events, but the health and safety of athletes and coaches,” the white paper states. “Without a national policy or regulatory framework in place to detect or deter manipulation, and no harmonized education for athletes, coaches and sport administrators about the risks and consequences associated with competition manipulation, Canada is ill-equipped and unprepared to respond to this threat.”

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