“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,” the regulator said in a press release.
The regulator of online sports betting in Ontario has shut down wagering on the Ultimate Fighting Championship in the province, for the time being at least, citing worries it has about the potential for insider gambling on the sport.
Saying it is doing so to “protect the betting public,” the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) said on Thursday that it is requiring licensed retail and online sports betting sites to stop taking bets immediately on the mixed martial arts events due to wagering-integrity concerns.
“This is not a decision we take lightly, knowing the popularity of UFC events in Ontario’s sports books,” said Tom Mungham, registrar and CEO of the AGCO, in a press release. “However, the risks of insider betting on event and wagering integrity should be highly concerning to all. It certainly is to us.”
The AGCO said it has rules to protect against match-fixing and other integrity issues, but that, contrary to the regulator's standards, the UFC does not ban all insiders from betting on events. These insiders, the AGCO said, could include a fighter's coach, manager, handler, trainer, or other people 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,” the regulator said in its release. “Therefore, the AGCO is now taking this step in the public interest.”
The AGCO added it has told operators that whenever the necessary steps to remedy the situation have been taken, they can try to prove to the regulator that UFC betting again meets its standards.
“We will continue to work with gaming operators, the [Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp.], iGaming Ontario and UFC to ensure that wagering on UFC events meets the AGCO’s Standards,” the release added.
Ontario is the only province in Canada with a regulated iGaming market that allows multiple private-sector operators of online sportsbooks to take bets. More than 30 operators are now taking wagers within that regulatory framework.
However, the move by the AGCO comes after reports of a UFC fight in November that allegedly drew huge amounts of money on certain markets, such as a first-round knockout, in the hours leading up to the match.
Las Vegas-based betting integrity firm U.S. Integrity subsequently launched an investigation, and a coach was reportedly not allowed to corner a fighter during an event later in the month.
"The wagering activity around the Darrick Minner and Shayilan Nuerdanbieke bout from Nov. 5 remains under review by our betting integrity partner Don Best Sports," the UFC recently told ESPN. "At this time, we have no information that either of the athletes involved in the bout, or anyone associated with their teams, was involved in any wrongdoing."