The Challenges of Competition Manipulation that Athletes face due to Sports Gambling and How to Address this Problem

By Nic Spagnuolo (Case Manager), Eli Hutchison (Caseworker)

The Sport Solution Blog is written by law students and is intended to provide information and the team’s perspectives on current issues. However, the Blog is not intended to provide legal advice or opinion. Athletes in need of assistance should contact the clinic directly at [email protected]

Throughout Canada, there has been a dramatic shift over the years with respect to sports gambling. The Senate passed Bill C-218, the Safe and Regulated Sports Betting Act, on June 22, 2021, which gave provinces the ability to regulate single-event sports betting. 1 Ontario then passed laws on April 4th, 2022, to allow sportsbooks to provide single-event sports gambling services within the province.2Single-game sports betting has been very profitable for the Ontario economy. Within the first year of legalized single-event betting, overall revenue from the province’s regulated sector was over $1.4 billion.3In 2023, it was estimated that the legal sports betting market in Ontario contributed $1.56 billion to Ontario’s GDP, and is expected to contribute up to $2.9 billion to Ontario’s GDP in 2024.4.Although sports gambling has been widely accepted, with 1.6 million active players, 45 gaming operators and 76 facilities offering sports gambling services in 2023 in Ontario alone 5, an underreported aspect of the acceptance of sports gambling has been the additional problems that Canadian athletes are facing as a result of the increasing prevalence of sports gambling in the country.

Sports Gambling and Competition Manipulation

A problem that sports gambling poses for Canadian athletes is the temptation to engage in competition manipulation. This problem is further exacerbated by the fact that Canada is behind other countries in how to deal with and protect athletes from engaging in competition manipulation. 6 Additionally, athletes who are under-funded and under-resourced are more susceptible to engaging in competition manipulation. 7

Competition manipulation has been an increasing concern globally. For example, Sportradar Integrity Services, a global sports technology company that monitors betting behaviour 8, observed an increase in the number of suspicious matches by 34% in 2022 compared to 2021.9 In total, there were 1,212 suspicious matches detected in 92 countries on five continents and across 12 different sports. 10Suspicious matches are those with unusual betting activity and can be indicative of competition manipulation. 11 As sports betting becomes more prevalent throughout the country, athletes in Canadian sports, especially those who are under-compensated and under-funded, can be at an increased risk of engaging in competition manipulation.

Recommendations to Combat Competition Manipulation: 2023 Symposium on Competition Manipulation and Gambling in Sport

In May 2023, the McLaren Global Sport Solutions Inc. (MGSS) and the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport (CCES) co-hosted the second Canadian Symposium on Competition Manipulation and Gambling in Sport. 12 The symposium was attended by key stakeholders of Canadian sport including athletes, national sport organizations (NSOs), government bodies, professional sport leagues, sport integrity units and law enforcement agencies.13Following the symposium, the MGSS and CCES published the takeaways of the event, as well as five key recommendations for how to handle competition manipulation and gambling in Canadian sport. 14

The first recommendation was to develop a national policy to be adopted by all national and multi-sport organizations that would be supervised by an independent body. 15 This recommendation is currently being carried out by the CCES and the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC). 16The COC and the CCES have partnered to develop a harmonized policy for the Canadian sport community by using the International Olympic Committee Code to draft a national policy in conjunction with NSOs, multi-sport organizations and athletes across Canada.17Once published, the policy will be administered by an independent organization and will outline the prohibited behaviours and consequences for failure to follow the policy. 18The policy will also outline the mandatory education that athletes must undertake, as well as how to monitor suspicious betting activity. 19

The second recommendation was to develop educational programming for athletes, coaches and other participants involved in Canadian sport to reduce the harms of competition manipulation. 20 With the advent of the legalization of sports gambling, athletes, specifically younger athletes who may not be aware of competition manipulation policies, are at a heightened risk of being taken advantage of to engage in competition manipulation. 21As such, educating athletes is necessary to protect them from the dangers of engaging in competition manipulation. 22

The third recommendation was to create a national working group to advise on implementing policies against competition manipulation throughout Canada.23The purpose of the working group would be to ensure that regulations are consistent across Canada and that communication is easier among all stakeholders involved in Canadian sport and sports gambling. 24

The fourth recommendation was to develop a revenue-sharing system from the proceeds of sports gambling to ensure that money is being put into Canadian sport to help combat competition manipulation. 25 Although provinces are benefiting from the additional revenue from sports gambling through taxation, it is unclear how or if any money is flowing back into sport or being used to benefit sport organizations and athletes. 26 As such, a revenue-sharing system would allow for sports organizations and athletes to benefit financially to reduce the likelihood of engaging in competition manipulation, as well as financially supporting initiatives designed to prevent competition manipulation. 27

The final recommendation was to encourage the Government of Canada to become a party to the Macolin Convention, which is the only rule of international law on match fixing in sport, in order to prevent, detect and punish match fixing. 28

The Future of Sports Gambling and the Effects on Canadian Athletes

Since the time in which single-event sports gambling became legal in Canada, there has yet to be a competition manipulation scandal in Canadian sport through the Canadian gambling market. However, as outlined at the 2023 Symposium on Competition Manipulation and Gambling in Sport, stakeholders should be implementing measures to ensure that Canadian sport has the proper infrastructure in place to prevent, deter and handle any potential competition manipulation scandals in the upcoming years.

Key Takeaways

  • While legalized sports gambling has increased provincial revenue in Ontario, it has also increased the risk of athletes in Canadian sport being susceptible to engaging in competition manipulation.
  • Following the 2023 Symposium on Competition Manipulation and Gambling in Sport, the McLaren Global Sport Solutions Inc. and the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport developed five recommendations for how to address the threat of competition manipulation in Canadian sport.
  • Although there has yet to be a competition manipulation scandal in Canadian sport through the legalized Canadian gambling market, stakeholders should be implementing the proper measures to prevent, deter and handle any potential competition manipulation scandals going forward.


  1. Bryson A. Stokes, Jeffrey Merrick & Mike Maodus, “Senate Passes Bill C-218 Legalizing Single-Event Sports Betting in Canada” (22 June 2021), online: Blakes <blakes.com/insights/senate-passes-bill-c-218-legalizing-single-event-s#:~:text=On%20June%2022%2C%202021%2C%20the,betting%20offerings%20within%20their%20borders>.
  2. Matt Eichhorn, “Canadian Legalization of Sports Betting – 2023 Provincial Timeline” (5 July 2023), online: Canadian Sports Betting <canadiansportsbetting.ca/guides/canadian-sports-betting-legalization-timeline/>.
  3. James Young, “First Year of Legal Sports Betting in Ontario Generates over $1.48 Billion” (26 June 2023), online: Yahoo Finance <finance.yahoo.com/news/first-legal-sports-betting-ontario-130000598.html>.
  4. Ibid
  5. Ibid
  6. Jamie Strashin, “‘Bigger issue than doping’: Canada flirting with disaster aimed growth of legalized sports gambling” (16 June 2023), online: CBC Sports
  7. Ibid
  8.  “Sportrader Group” (2024), online: Sportrader Group <sportradar.com/about/>.
  9.  Megan Cumming, “All that glitters is not gold: The rising threat of competition manipulation” (24 May 2023), online: Sport Information Resource Centre <sirc.ca/blog/rising-threat-of-competition-manipulation/>.
  10. Ibid
  11.  “Sport and Event Betting Integrity” (2021), online: Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario <agco.ca/sport-and-event-betting-integrity#:~:text=Suspicious%20betting%20activity%20is%20unusual,information%2C%20or%20other%20illicit%20activity>.
  12.  “2023 Symposium on Competition Manipulation and Gambling in Sport” (May 2023), online: Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport <cces.ca/2023-symposium-competition-manipulation-and-gambling-sport>.
  13. Ibid
  14. Ibid
  15.  Richard H. McLaren & Jeremy Luke, “Competition Manipulation and Gambling: Threats to Canadian Sport and the Gaming Industry” (14 March 2014) at 18, online (pdf): Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport <cces.ca/sites/default/files/content/docs/pdf/cces-mgss-cm2023-whitepaper-e.pdf>. 
  16. Ibid at 16
  17. Ibid
  18. Ibid
  19. Ibid
  20. Ibid at 18 
  21. Ibid at 14 
  22. Ibid
  23. Ibid at 18
  24. Ibid
  25. Ibid
  26. Ibid at 4
  27. Ibid
  28. Ibid at 10, 18