The province of Ontario has come down hard on the UFC in the wake of the recent betting controversy.
On Thursday, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario announced that effective immediately, “all registered casino, lottery and igaming operators that offer sports and event betting products in Ontario [are] to stop offering and accepting wagers on Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) events due to concerns about non-compliance with AGCO’s betting integrity requirements.”
This is a major blow to the UFC and online betting sites in Canada that handle wagers for the global fighting promotion, as Ontario stands as the largest sports market in the country.
According to the AGCO statement, the decision to ban UFC wagers is due to an upholding of the “Registrar’s Standards,” which are meant to safeguard against “odds manipulation, match-fixing and other sports betting integrity issues.” The statement goes on to say that the AGCO “has learned of publicized alleged incidents, including possible betting by UFC insiders, as well as reports of suspicious betting patterns in other jurisdictions.” A specific incident is not specified.
The AGCO’s Registar’s Standards forbid anyone with access to non-public information to wager on fights, which includes the fighters, coaches, managers, trainers, and medical professionals among others. This past October, the UFC added a clause to its Code of Conduct forbidding its fighters from betting on fights.
“The Standards exist to protect the betting public and to provide the necessary safeguards against odds manipulation, match-fixing and other integrity issues,” AGCO Register and CEO Tom Mungham said in the statement. “This is not a decision we take lightly, knowing the popularity of UFC events in Ontario’s sports books. However, the risks of insider betting on events and wagering integrity should be highly concerning to all. It certainly is to us. We will continue to work with gaming operators, the OLG, iGaming Ontario and UFC to ensure that wagering on UFC events meets the AGCO’s Standards.”
UFC wagers have come under intense scrutiny over the past month, with a Nov. 5 bout featuring Darrick Minner vs. Shaylan Nuerdanbieke at UFC Vegas 64 drawing massive attention.
In that featherweight contest, Minner lost via TKO in 67 seconds shortly after he appeared to suffer a leg injury in the octagon. In the leadup to the fight, betting lines shifted dramatically in Nuerdanbieke’s favor and the suspicious activity — which was possibly tied to Minner having an undisclosed injury going into his fight — along with the strange result has led to an official investigation into the bout.
UFC officials have denied any wrongdoing on the part of the fighters and their teams even as Minner faces a possible sanction from state officials depending on the investigation’s findings.
Minner’s coach, James Krause, received an indirect slap on the wrist from the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement, who ordered all sportsbooks in the state of New Jersey to ban betting on fights involving Krause-coached fighters. Krause was also banned from cornering fighter Miles Johns at UFC Vegas 65 on Nov. 19 due to the ongoing investigation and he has shut down his gambling advice channels on the online social media platform Discord.
Read the AGCO’s full statement on the UFC betting ban below:
In order to protect the betting public, effective immediately, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) is requiring all registered casino, lottery and igaming operators that offer sports and event betting products in Ontario to stop offering and accepting wagers on Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) events due to concerns about non-compliance with AGCO’s betting integrity requirements.
The Registrar’s Standards include rules to safeguard against odds manipulation, match-fixing and other sports betting integrity issues. Operators must specifically ensure that:
– For sporting events being bet on, the event must be effectively supervised by a sports governing body which must, at a minimum, prescribe final rules and enforce codes of conduct that include prohibitions on betting by insiders; and
– There are integrity safeguards in place which are sufficient to mitigate the risk of match-fixing, cheat-at-play, and other illicit activities that might influence the outcome of bets upon events.
Contrary to the Registrar’s Standards, the UFC does not prohibit all insiders from betting on UFC events, which could include an athlete’s coaches, managers, handlers, athletic trainers, medical professionals, or other persons with access to non-public information.
In recent weeks, the AGCO has learned of publicized alleged incidents, including possible betting by UFC insiders, as well as reports of suspicious betting patterns in other jurisdictions.
Therefore, the AGCO is now taking this step in the public interest. AGCO has indicated to operators that, once the necessary remedial steps have been taken, they may provide information demonstrating that UFC bets or betting products meet the Registrar’s Standards.