The US will allow states to legalize gambling on sports - what does it mean for the rest of us?

May 22, 2018
By Jeremy Luke, Senior Director, Sport Integrity

Last Monday, the United States Supreme Court issued a landmark decision allowing states to legalize gambling on sports. This decision impacts a multi-billion dollar gambling industry. It will affect state revenues and will bring sports gambling out of the shadows and into the mainstream. In addition to the impact on the betting public, this decision will have varying implications in the U.S. for sports and their participants, which will inevitably have repercussions beyond their borders into Canada.   

Maybe you’re familiar with gambling on sport. Maybe you aren’t. Maybe you know that in Canada legal gambling on sport events is regulated provincially and must involve betting on multiple sports (e.g., Proline). You should know that legal betting activity in Canada represents only a small fraction of the total sport betting that Canadians engage in online, and it’s likely to increase with the changes in the U.S. regardless of Canadian legislation. Gambling on sports is a huge underground industry in Canada, and it’s growing. 

So why should you care? There are significant amounts of money to be won, and with that possibility there is inevitably interest from unscrupulous individuals who see an opportunity to manipulate results to their advantage. Teams and athletes can be bribed, or worse, coerced, to manipulate events so that others may win bets illegitimately. We know that match manipulation is a regular occurrence around the world and that it often involves organized crime. Unfortunately, Canada is not immune.

Maybe you believe match manipulation and sport gambling isn’t significant enough to worry about. Maybe you believe the issue is too big, too messy or too far removed from your sport experience to be worth getting involved in. Maybe you don’t believe anything can be done to remedy this issue. Or maybe you know that a number of other countries, sports and international organizations have already made huge strides towards dealing with the issue of match manipulation, and that Canada is falling far behind. 

In Australia, state legislation for gambling on sports makes match manipulation illegal and ensures that sport organizations have integrity units to protect athletes from these issues. The Council of Europe passed a convention prohibiting match manipulation which is endorsed by 28 member countries (a convention that the Canadian federal government could endorse if so desired). The International Olympic Committee implemented rules to prohibit match manipulation, and other major international sporting federations, including tennis and cricket, have followed suit. 

Meanwhile, in Canada we do not have laws that criminalize match manipulation and therefore, law enforcement pays little attention to the issue. As a result, organized crime continues to benefit and sport organizations lose potential revenue. National sport policies that prohibit match manipulation would ensure that Canadian athletes are educated on the issue and would have a means to identify match manipulation if they see it.

We can’t deny that gambling on sports and match manipulation is a global phenomenon. From the perspective of those who work to protect the integrity of sport, we know that sport gambling poses serious risks to the integrity of sport, and more specifically, to the safety of athletes. This is an issue that needs to be taken seriously in Canada.  

The CCES has recognized that there is a problem and is taking action to protect sport. In October 2018, the CCES will co-host a symposium with McLaren Global Sport Solutions called ‘2018 Symposium on Match Manipulation and Gambling in Sport’. The symposium will introduce the issues of sport gambling and match manipulation, discuss how the international sport community is managing this issue and identify a Canadian course of action. The symposium will feature Richard McLaren, law professor and member of the independent World Anti-Doping Agency Commission that investigated allegations of state-sponsored doping in Russian sports; and Declan Hill, journalist and world-leading expert on match fixing and corruption.

For more information about the symposium, please contact Julie Vallon, Sport Services Manager, jvallon@cces.ca