UPDATED Ontario Gaming Commission to Bar Bets on UFC Cards for Integrity Concerns

Editor's note: The article has been updated at 3:30 p.m. ET on Dec. 1 to add the text of the statement from the AGCO.

Canadian fight fans from Kingston to Kenora can no longer bet on Ultimate Fighting Championship events for the foreseeable future.

Per ESPN on Thursday, the Alcohol Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) has informed all sportsbooks in the province of Ontario, Canada, that they cannot offer any bets on UFC events going forward. The block has been issued for an indeterminate amount of time, and it is in effect immediately – this means, for example, that no person in Toronto can bet on any fight from UFC on ESPN 42 in Saturday. The AGCO will levy a far stricter ban than the New Jersey Division of Gambling Enforcement issued earlier in the month, where the state prohibited any books from allowing bets on any fight involving coach and former fighter James Krause, who helms the large team Glory MMA & Fitness.

The reason for the prohibition of all UFC wagers, according to ESPN, is “due to concerns about non-compliance with AGCO’s betting integrity requirements.” The AGCO did not specifically state any particular match or combatant that led to this decision. However, the UFC, Krause and others including recent competitor Darrick Minner, are all under investigation by Las Vegas-based betting integrity firm U.S. Integrity, a third-party organization that reviews anomalies on sportsbooks and reports that information to the commissions, books and promotions involved. The recent issue stemmed from a sudden surge of mid-event betting on Minner’s opponent, Nuerdanbieke Shayilan, at UFC Fight Night 214 in November.

That night, significant money poured in on Shayilan to win the fight, and also to win by stoppage. The line moved across the sportsbooks from roughly -220 to -370 in the span of just a few hours. Additionally, the betting lines of the bout lasting under 2.5 rounds moved from about -140 to -190 in that same stretch of time. This, according to rumor on social media, may have been due to a recently discovered injury that Minner carried into the matchup. The sudden line shift and irregularities were noticed by the sportsbooks, some of which promptly informed the aforementioned U.S. Integrity. Since the investigations began, Krause or his representatives have subsequently deleted a pay-to-access Discord channel that issued betting advice, as well as his YouTube channel that featured betting content.

The AGCO issued a statement about this decision, which read in part:

"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.

Therefore, the AGCO is now taking this step in the public interest. AGCO has indicated to operators that, once the necessary remedial steps have been taken, they may provide information demonstrating that UFC bets or other betting productions meet the Registrar's Standards."

”The Standards exist to protect the betting public and to provide the necessary safeguards against odds manipulation, match-fixing and other integrity issues. This is not a decision we take lightly, knowing the popularity of UFC events in Ontario’s sports books. However, the risks of insider betting on event and wagering integrity should be highly concerning to all. It certainly is to us. We will continue to work with gaming operators, the OLG, iGaming Ontario and UFC to ensure that wagering on UFC events meets the AGCO’s Standards.”

The “Standards,” or the “Registrar’s Standards for Gaming, Internet Gaming, and Lottery,” are in place in the province to prevent any malfeasance on the part of interested bettors or those placing suspicious bets. The requirements listed in the Standards include “requiring operators to actively monitor the betting markets for suspicious betting activity” as well as “prohibiting insiders, including coaches, athletes and referees, from betting on certain events.” The UFC recently enacted a similar policy to prevent fighters or all connected individuals including teammates and immediate family members from betting on their fights. This type of regulation exists across practically all other major sports leagues ranging from MLB to the NHL.

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