Ontario Regulator Monitoring NBA Prop Betting Probe, Speaking With Sportsbooks, Police

The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario told Covers that the regulator is “aware of prop betting irregularities linked to Toronto Raptors’ Jontay Porter” and the NBA’s review of the matter.

Mar 26, 2024 • 18:34 ET • 5 min read
Jontay Porter Toronto Raptors NBA
Photo By - USA TODAY Sports

Ontario’s regulator of online sports wagering sites says it is speaking with “all relevant parties,” including provincial police, regarding a recently revealed investigation by the NBA into alleged prop betting peculiarities involving the Toronto Raptors' Jontay Porter. 

ESPN reported on Monday, citing sources, that Porter is under investigation by the NBA “following multiple instances of betting irregularities over the past several months.”

The sports broadcaster said Porter-related prop bets for games on Jan. 26 and March 20 were at issue, and that the NBA said it was looking into the matter. The Raptors center has yet to comment publicly, and no formal allegations had been announced by the NBA or any other entity regarding him or anyone connected to him as of Tuesday evening.

"At the end of the day, nothing has been proven yet," said Garrett Temple, a Raptors forward and a vice president of the National Basketball Players Association, on Monday, according to the Canadian Press. "My position is that we're backing him and hope that it's not what has been implied."

Porter played approximately four minutes against the Los Angeles Clippers on Jan. 26, recording three rebounds, one assist, and zero points before leaving the game due to a reported issue with his eye, which was poked in a previous game.

On March 20, Porter played about three minutes against the Sacramento Kings and recorded two rebounds and one missed shot before leaving the game with a reported illness.

Porter props for both matchups attracted noteworthy interest from bettors. Following the games (which were played in Toronto), DraftKings Sportsbook said props involving Porter were among its top five "NBA Moneymakers" for users, such as Under 0.5 three-pointers on Jan. 26. Porter did not attempt a shot that game, and reportedly went under other totals, according to ESPN.

The situation has come to the attention of the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO), the regulator of online sports betting in the Canadian province where the Raptors are based. DraftKings is also authorized to offer iGaming and online sports betting in Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, under the oversight of the AGCO. 

A spokesperson for the AGCO told Covers in an email that the regulator is “aware of prop betting irregularities linked to Toronto Raptors’ Jontay Porter” and the NBA’s review of the matter.

“As you know, the AGCO’s Registrar’s Standards (the Standards) include rules that Ontario gaming operators must follow to safeguard against odds manipulation, match-fixing and other sports betting integrity issues,” the spokesperson said. “We’re currently engaged with all relevant parties on the matter, including registered operators, independent integrity monitors and the Investigation and Enforcement Bureau (IEB) of the Ontario Provincial Police (a division embedded within the AGCO).”

Keeping an eye on things

The IEB, the AGCO spokesperson said, would be the one to decide if any criminal investigation is needed. The Criminal Code of Canada prohibits cheating while playing a game or betting with intent to defraud someone, the regulator noted. 

"The police determine whether charges should be laid in relation to any alleged violation of the Criminal Code, including in relation to cheat at play or any other offence," the AGCO spokesperson said.

An OPP spokesperson told Covers in an email that the IEB “is engaged in this matter to determine if the allegations alleged are founded and if a criminal investigation is warranted,” but added they can't provide more information at this time.

“We’re continuing to monitor the situation as it evolves,” the AGCO spokesperson said.

iGaming Ontario (iGO), the government agency through which private-sector operators such as DraftKings can do business in the province, said it was likewise aware of and monitoring the situation

“The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO), Ontario’s gaming regulator, is working with all interested parties including independent integrity monitors to look into any potential impact to the integrity of gaming in Ontario,” iGO said in an email to Covers. “As their work is ongoing, it would be inappropriate for iGaming Ontario to comment further.”

iGO did add that it is “committed to working together with the AGCO and our operators to enable Ontarians to play with confidence in the province’s safer, regulated igaming market.”

Big business, bad headlines

The Porter story comes as the NBA and other professional sports leagues have embraced legal sports betting following a 2018 U.S. Supreme Court decision that paved the way for the expansion of event wagering. 

In Canada, where the Raptors are the only NBA team, legal sports betting ramped up after federal lawmakers decriminalized single-game wagering in 2021. Ontario then launched a competitive market for iGaming in April 2022, which allowed an army of private-sector operators to set up shop in the province in addition to the government-owned lottery corporation. The owner of the Raptors, Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, even announced partnerships with FanDuel and PointsBet soon after the launch of Ontario's competitive market in 2022.

Ontario now has around 50 iGaming operators offering online sports betting, casino gambling, and poker across approximately 70 websites. Those sites accepted more than $17 billion in wagers (in Canadian currency) from Oct. 1 to Dec. 31, the most recent period for which there is data. 

The Porter story also comes after a burst of negative news regarding sports betting and the NBA. Most recently, Cleveland Cavaliers coach J.B. Bickerstaff told media that he was threatened by gamblers last season. 

Leagues such as the NBA have adopted rules and formed partnerships with monitoring services to try to protect the integrity of their games amid the boom in legal sports betting. That has led to a number of suspensions and other punishments handed down by governing bodies in connection with sports betting.

The NBA prohibits players from directly or indirectly wagering on its games, and Commissioner Adam Silver can levy fines, suspensions, and bans as discipline if that rule is broken.

A player can also be banned from the league if they are found guilty “of offering, agreeing, conspiring, aiding or attempting to cause any game of basketball to result otherwise than on its merits."

According to ESPN, the NBA and its teams have personnel watching wagering markets, and the league works with third-party integrity monitors to help with those efforts. Moreover, in Ontario, the AGCO requires iGaming operators to set up systems to identify suspicious betting activity and to report it to an independent integrity monitor, which must then notify sportsbook operators, the league, and the regulator.

The upside of legal wagering

Porter, meanwhile, has reportedly been inactive for the Raptors recently due to "personal reasons." He is averaging 4.4 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 2.3 assists for the season.

"We are aware of the inquiry involving Jontay and as we do with all our members, we will ensure he has access to the resources he needs," a spokesperson for the National Basketball Players Association said in an email to Covers. "As this is an ongoing investigation, that is all we're able to share at this time."

A spokesperson for DraftKings said the Boston-based bookmaker has no comment on the ESPN story.

The company did, however, have a comment about the positives of legalized sports betting.

“In general, it is important to note that one of the many benefits of legal and regulated sports betting is that sports betting operators identify and report suspicious activity and the integrity of sport is therefore protected in a manner that does not exist in the illegal market,” a DraftKings spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

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