Ontario Bans Sportsbooks From Taking Bets on WBA Boxing Over Integrity Concerns

It’s not the first time the AGCO has shut down wagering on a league or sport because of worries about "insider" wagering.

Apr 18, 2024 • 14:31 ET • 3 min read
Yoenis Tellez WBA Livian Navarro
Photo By - USA TODAY Sports

Ontario's regulator of online sports betting sites has banned operators from taking action on certain boxing matches, citing worries about “insiders” wagering on the events.

The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) said Thursday that it was requiring all sports betting sites under its supervision to stop offering and taking wagers on World Boxing Association (WBA) events immediately.

“This measure is being taken to protect the Ontario betting public following concerns that WBA-sanctioned boxing matches are not adequately being safeguarded against match-fixing and insider betting,” the watchdog said in a press release

The AGCO said it reviewed allegedly suspicious wagering activity on a WBA-sanctioned title fight in Florida between Yoenis Tellez and Livan Navarro since it happened in December. In particular, the AGCO said "suspicious betting patterns" emerged regarding how long the fight would last, with money coming in on Over 5.5 rounds.

That betting was reported to the AGCO by two independent integrity monitors, the regulator said, and was also detected in the province by a sportsbook operator. The AGCO pointed to media reports alleging Tellez’s manager wagered $110,000 on the match lasting over 5.5 rounds at a Florida casino; Tellez would win by knockout in the 10th round.

The Wall Street Journal reported Tellez’s manager initially tried to bet $500,000 on the match, but an executive at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel in Hollywood rejected the request, leading to a smaller but still sizable wager. The manager later told the newspaper the $500,000 bet was a joke.

Hard Rock, however, reportedly took the fight off the board and notified monitoring firm U.S. Integrity about the situation. On Thursday, the AGCO said that after it conducted its "intensive" review, it concluded bets on the WBA did not meet its standards for iGaming.

“Registered gaming operators were unable to demonstrate to the AGCO that the WBA prohibits betting from insiders, which could include an athlete’s coaches, managers, handlers, athletic trainers, medical professionals, or others with access to non-public information,” the regulator said. “Further, registered gaming operators were unable to demonstrate that the WBA took any action to investigate or enforce the allegations of potential match-fixing and insider wagering.”

It’s not the first time the AGCO has shut down wagering on a league or sport over integrity concerns. The regulator took a similar step in December 2022, when it ordered Ontario sportsbooks to stop taking bets on UFC events due to issues with the mixed martial arts organization’s policies for insider wagering.

The UFC subsequently tweaked its rules, and the AGCO then reinstated wagering on the sport

'Appropriate safeguards' requested

The WBA may need to do something similar to get back into the AGCO’s good books and back on the menu at legal sportsbooks 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,” said Dr. Karin Schnarr, registrar and CEO of the AGCO, in a statement. “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.”

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