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Ontario halts World Boxing Association betting over integrity concerns

| By Robert Fletcher
The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) has ordered all licensees in the Canadian province to stop offering and accepting bets on World Boxing Association (WBA) events due to concerns over integrity.
Ontario World Boxing Association Betting

The measure is effective immediately in Ontario and covers betting on all World Boxing Association events and contests.

AGCO took the decision after ruling WBA-sanctioned boxing matches are not adequately being safeguarded against match-fixing and insider betting. This followed a comprehensive review of suspicious wagering activity on a particular WBA-sanctioned title fight.

During the bout between Yoenis Tellez and Livan Navarro, suspicious betting patterns lasting over five and a half rounds were reported to AGCO by two registered independent integrity monitors and detected in Ontario by a registered igaming operator. 

Media reports also alleged Tellez’s manager bet $110,000 (£64,300/€75,085/US$79,822) at a Florida casino on the match lasting over five and a half rounds. The fight ended with Tellez knocking out Navarro in the 10th round.

Regulator concerned over insider betting

The AGCO review into the matter began in December 2023 and covered various bases. These included working with the WBA, Ontario-registered gaming operators, integrity monitors and regulators in other jurisdictions. 

The Ontario regulator concluded bets related to WBA boxing events do not currently meet the Registrar’s Standards for Internet Gaming. As such, it has put in place the halt on betting on WBA events.

AGCO said licensed operators were unable to demonstrate to the WBA prohibits betting from insiders. This, AGCO said, could include an athlete’s coaches, managers, handlers, athletic trainers, medical professionals, or others with access to non-public information. 

Further, operators could not show that the WBA took action to investigate or enforce the allegations of potential match-fixing and insider wagering.

Could WBA betting return in Ontario?

The halt on betting could be temporary. AGCO says wagering could restart if operators can demonstrate that the WBA effectively supervises its events.

Such action would bring WBA events into compliance with the Registrar’s Standards in Ontario.

“Ontarians who wish to bet on sporting events need to be confident that those events are fairly run and that clear integrity safeguards are in place and enforced by an effective sport governing body,” AGCO CEO and registrar Karin Schnarr said.

“Knowing the popularity of boxing in Ontario, we look forward to reinstating betting on WBA events once appropriate safeguards against possible match-fixing and insider betting have been confirmed.”

Ontario took similar action over UFC betting

This is not the first time AGCO has ordered a halt on certain betting. In December 2022, the Ontario regulator required operators to stop offering bets on UFC over similar insider betting concerns. 

The UFC amended its rules and regulations to ban its fighters from betting on UFC events a few weeks prior to this. However, AGCO said other insiders such as coaches, managers, handlers, athletic trainers and medical staff could still bet.

However, the ban lasted just a few weeks, with UFC betting permitted again in Ontario in the following month. This came after the UFC amended its policies and implemented a range of new protocols.

Among the new measures was that coaches, managers, handlers, athletic trainers and other individuals affiliated with the athletes or UFC could no longer bet on UFC events. The UFC said any violations may result in disciplinary action against related contract athletes. 

Gambling advertising under fire in Ontario

The ban also comes after new research showed widespread opposition to gambling adverts in Ontario.

Published this month, the Maru Public Opinion found 59% favour a total ban on wagering advertising. Most also believe operators are not acting responsibly and that there should be more government regulation.

The poll was taken several weeks before the latest Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario advertising regulations were introduced. These regulations ban sportsbooks from using celebrities for promotional activities. They also ban sportsbook billboard advertising near schools, or other places where youth or vulnerable populations congregate. 

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