Is inside sports betting on the rise? Why the problem may get ‘more common’ – National

Is inside sports betting on the rise? Why the problem may get ‘more common’ - National

Does Canada have an inside sports betting problem?

Two athletes for Canadian teams were recently penalized for gambling, and experts say the cases highlight a growing — and significant — challenge for the future of professional sports.

Jontay Porter, who played for the Toronto Raptors, was suspended for life by the NBA following a league investigation. Meanwhile, Shawn Lemon was suspended indefinitely by the CFL last week after “an investigation uncovered that Mr. Lemon bet on CFL games in 2021 while a member of the Calgary Stampeders,” the league said.

And down south, superstar Los Angeles Dodgers player Shohei Ohtani’s interpreter allegedly stole $16 million from the player to pay off a gambling debt.

Sports betting is not new, but now that online betting is legal in parts of Canada, including Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia, it is easier to access and more visible than ever.

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Moshe Lander, a sports economics professor at Concordia University, told Global News that inside sports betting has a long history, with the most famous story being the “Chicago Black Sox Scandal.”

That’s when eight members of the Chicago White Sox baseball team were accused of losing the 1919 World Series against the Cincinnati Reds on purpose.

Click to play video: 'Former CFL all star Shawn Lemon suspended indefinitely for betting on league games'

Former CFL all star Shawn Lemon suspended indefinitely for betting on league games

Lander said sports and gambling go hand-in-hand, and sports leagues have jumped on the bandwagon.

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Athletes such as Wayne Gretzky or Connor McDavid appear in betting commercials now, and the leagues themselves promote it. That makes it trickier for the leagues to take a stance against it with its own players, Lander said.

But he says they must come down firm against inside betting, for the integrity of the sport.

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“Sports is as a business selling you on what’s called the uncertainty of outcome,” Lander said. “I need to believe that what I’m watching is not pre-determined. It’s not fixed.

“If I feel for a second that the entire sport is invaded by the actors themselves engaging in removing that uncertainty of outcome, professional sports is over.”

It’s this threat to sports that causes leagues to take inside betting very seriously and come down hard on it, Lander said, often with lifetime bans.

So if athletes know they could lose all they worked towards, and maybe not even make as much money as they would playing the game, then why do they do it?

Brock University sport management associate professor Michael Naraine reasoned that it could have to do with athletes’ hyper-competitive nature and the addictive element of gambling.

He gave the example of Michael Jordan, who was an avid gambler.

For those hooked on gambling, the dopamine rush and narrative of fighting against the odds often can be tough for athletes to pass up, Naraine said, even if the chances of them being caught are high.

Click to play video: 'NBA issues lifetime ban to former Toronto Raptors player'

NBA issues lifetime ban to former Toronto Raptors player

Naraine said that now that sports betting is online, the back-end analytics are robust and anomalies can easily be flagged. In the case of Jontay Porter, the league said an internal probe had determined he placed bets through an associate to online sports book DraftKings, and the service flagged the activity.

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The NBA called Porter’s actions “blatant.”

Lander predicts cases of athletes caught in similar situations will grow for the next few years given that legalized betting has brought it all out into the open, but said it will settle down.

“It’s going to be more common that we see people being caught up in this,” he said. “People are trying to figure out the where are the red lines that we can’t cross.”

The problem isn’t confined to Canada, though, as parts of the U.S. has also legalized sports betting, according to Lander.

He compared online sports betting to the legalized cannabis market in Canada, where there were kinks to be sorted out over time.

“It’s been the wild, wild West,” Naraine said.

&copy 2024 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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