Legal sports betting in Canada is growing rapidly. This follows the country’s decision to legalize single-event betting in 2021.
Since then, sports gambling adverts have become the norm on TV, radio, social media, and the web.
Some experts are raising concerns about the potential impact legal betting will have on sports integrity.
"I think this is a major issue facing sport," Jeremy Luke of the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport (CCES), recently told CBC. "The potential for manipulation and corruption, it's a huge risk that faces sport in Canada," he added.
In recent years, the landscape of sports betting in Canada has undergone significant changes. The legalization of single-event sports betting in 2021 marked a turning point, opening up a new avenue for gamblers and creating a burgeoning industry.
This shift has not only transformed the way sports enthusiasts engage with their favorite games but has also led to a surge in the number of betting operators.
Ontario, in particular, has been at the forefront of this transformation.
It is the only province that has so far formally regulated its sports betting operators, many of whom had previously operated in the so-called grey zone. This regulation has not only legitimized these operators but has also allowed for a more accurate quantification of the scale of sports betting in the province.
The figures are staggering. In the last year alone, residents of Ontario wagered more than CAD 35 billion on sports. This massive sum underscores the popularity of sports betting and points to a trend that is likely to continue in the future.
However, the growth of sports betting is not confined to the actions of gamblers. The sports industry itself has seen a shift in attitude towards this activity. Leagues that once distanced themselves from gambling are now embracing it, forming partnerships with betting operators and reaping millions in advertising revenue.
The presence of gambling has become inescapable, with advertisements flooding television, radio, online platforms, and even the fields of play and players' jerseys.
This exponential growth has led to an increased demand for reliable information and trustworthy platforms among casino and sports betting enthusiasts. To cater to this need, websites like BestCasinoSites.net have emerged as valuable resources, providing comprehensive reviews of various online casinos and sportsbooks.
These review websites offer detailed insights into the features, odds, and overall user experience, enabling fans to make informed decisions about where to place their bets.
This lucrative market, however, may not be without its drawbacks. As the industry continues to expand, the need for effective regulation and safeguards to protect the integrity of sports becomes increasingly urgent.
Although countries like the UK have learned to protect sports integrity while keeping gambling legal, Canada isn't there just yet. Most provinces are yet to draft laws that will protect athletes and sports in general from issues like match-fixing.
Jeremy Luke believes match-fixing is inevitable in Canada if more provinces legalize sports betting. The CEO of CCES believes betting scandals are a much bigger risk for the sports industry than doping.
Luke's fears are a reality in the US. After the Supreme Court gave states the authority to legalize sports betting in 2018, 33 of them permit the industry.
Unfortunately, legal sports betting came at the cost of sports integrity. Earlier this year, the NFL suspended five of its players for participating in illegal betting. Three of the players, C.J. Moore, Shaka Toney, and Quintez Cephus, will be suspended for the entirety of the 2023 season.
Both Cephus and Moore have since been released by the Detroit Lions. The two remaining players - Jameson Williams and Stanley Berryhill - will miss the first six games of the upcoming season.
Major League players can certainly survive without breaking league laws on betting. However, the most at-risk athletes are those who are barely paid enough to pay the bills. College athletes and those who feel underpaid are also at great risk of participating in match-fixing.
As sports betting grows, sports stakeholders are making efforts to protect sports integrity. The Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sports (CCES) is taking a leading role in this matter.
The CCES is working with different National Sport Organizations (NSOs) to identify and educate vulnerable athletes on the need to keep sports integrity intact. The NSO also trains Olympic athletes, which is why Luke's team at CCES has been in contact with the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) to help protect athletes.
The CCES is collaborating with the COC to help six NSOs identify and prevent match-fixing in Canada. It's a pilot program that will target organizations that train soccer, curling, and basketball players.
Besides its partnership with the COC, the CCES is also working with the Canadian Football League to roll out a mandatory education program for players and non-playing staff.
As of June 2023, the program had trained 1000 CFL employees, including 500 players.
Ideally, the best way to tackle sports betting-related scandals would be to create clear rules about what's accepted and what's illegal. This isn't exactly an easy task, however.
According to Eric Noive-a health and safety executive for the CFL-it's already hard enough trying to determine what to prohibit in the CFL players. As such, it would be even more difficult trying to resolve sports betting issues at a national level.
That being said, both the CFL and the CCES agree there's a need to create harmonized rules for the bare minimum players and trainers need to follow to protect sports integrity.
Protecting sports integrity is a win for the players, leagues, and the country. It helps remind the sports world that Canada is resilient in keeping its sports culture competitive and free of any scandals.
Sports betting is all the rage in Canada. Provinces now have the authority to legalize sports gambling. But so far, Ontario is the only jurisdiction with a commercialized betting space.
Ontario has been generating a lot of money from sports betting. However, sports stakeholders are concerned that legal betting could attract match-fixing and illegal betting by players and trainers.
Against that backdrop, it's essential that leagues, sports organizers, and the government come together to create rules that will protect the integrity of Canadian sports.