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Toronto police, Canada’s sport watchdog not investigating Raptors centre over gambling



Toronto police, Canada’s sport watchdog not investigating Raptors centre over gambling

John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press

Published Tuesday, March 26, 2024 2:39PM EDT

Last Updated Tuesday, March 26, 2024 6:45PM EDT

TORONTO – A Canadian expert on match fixing says the NBA’s investigation of Toronto Raptors backup centre Jontay Porter is a dire warning to professional sports leagues in North America.

Declan Hill, associate professor of investigations in the Henry C. Lee College of Criminal Justice and Forensic Science at the University of New Haven, has studied match fixing for more than 15 years.

He said that the investigation focused on Porter and a similar scandal involving baseball superstar Shohei Ohtani should also be a wake-up call to sports fans and governments alike.

“This is the beginning of the end of one of North America’s professional sports leagues,” Hill said Tuesday. “What we’ve been living under over the last five years is a honeymoon, a time where sports fans have not really cognitively understood who the leagues have gotten in bed with and the business deals with Satan that the sports leagues have done.”

The NBA is investigating Porter for irregularities in bets placed on his performance.

ESPN first reported on Monday that the NBA’s probe included Porter’s performance in games on Jan. 26 and March 20.

Porter played briefly in both games before leaving, citing injury or illness. He played four minutes 24 seconds against the Los Angeles Clippers in the first of those games, then played 2:43 against Sacramento in the second game.

In both cases, Porter did not come close to hitting the prop-wager lines for points, rebounds and three-pointers that bettors could play. A prop bet, short for proposition bet, is a wager not tied to the final score or outcome of a game.

ESPN said the props surrounding Porter for the Clippers game were 5.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.5 assists; he finished with no points, three rebounds and one assist. For the Kings game, they were around 7.5 points and 5.5 rebounds; Porter finished that game with no points and two rebounds.

“I don’t know whether it was him, whether it was his entourage, whether it was just somebody who heard he was injured, whether it was pure coincidence, I have no idea about a specific case,” said Hill. “But there’s enough credibility in the story that a good faith sports fan who follows the NBA could be looking at this and going, ‘Wow, what’s going on here?”’

Hill said that skepticism could erode fans’ interest in professional sports.

“A good faith sports fan can be looking at the action on their TV screens, or in their stadiums or arenas or wherever and be going, ‘Is this real? Or is it prearranged?”’ said Hill. “Even if it is real, as it will be 99.9 per cent of the time, just enough people having that doubt, is the graveyard, is the death, of our professional sports.”

Hill said that it’s problematic that professional sports leagues and some teams have official sponsorship deals with gambling websites. He said that there must be “clear blue water” between leagues and bookmakers.

Raptors veteran forward Garrett Temple, a vice-president with the National Basketball Players Association, said Monday that it was “awkward” that the NBA has sponsorship deals and business relationships with gambling websites.

“You watch a game and you may see FanDuel or DraftKings as a big-time sponsor for a team, but obviously it’s illegal for us to do it in any regard on any type of professional basketball like the NBA, G League, WNBA,” said Temple. “We understand that. Sports betting has always been around, it just obviously is even more available.

“It’s not as if a rule change happened, so it is awkward but at the same time, we understand what we’re getting ourselves into.”

Both games where Porter allegedly affected the bets by leaving the game early took place in Toronto. Although online gambling is legal in Ontario, the NBA has strict policies in place preventing players and team or league employees from participating in bets on professional basketball.

Toronto police and the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport both said on Tuesday that they are not investigating Porter.

Canadian law enforcement is limited in its ability to prosecute bet fixing because there are no specific provisions in the Criminal Code that prevent it.

A CCES spokeswoman said that the non-profit watchdog, which enforces anti-doping policies in Canada among other integrity issues in sports, has no jurisdiction over competitive manipulation in the NBA, and Canada doesn’t currently have a national program to address it.

Hill says lack of oversight in Canada and the United States is the heart of the problem.

“Don’t bring in legalized sports gambling to Canada, as the Trudeau government did, without changing the Criminal Code,” said Hill. “In eSports, I remember my contacts were saying, ‘We’ll move to Canada, we love this place! We can fix, we can be corrupt, we can do anything we want here and we get public health.”’

Hill recommended that both the Canadian and American governments have federal laws that govern competitive manipulation. He said the current patchwork of provincial and state laws has created too many loopholes.

He also said that agencies like CCES should have more resources and more power to fight corruption.

“If the federal government was stepping up to the plate, as they should have done when they legalized sports gambling, they should have made CCES far more well resourced, far better equipped, to deal with all the integrity challenges in sports,” said Hill. “Be it doping, be it the sexual abuse scandals which have hit Canadian sports so frequently, be it this type of match fixing.”

– With files from The Associated Press.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 26, 2024.

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