Raptors scandal highlights worries about sports betting

After one of its worst seasons in franchise history, Canada’s only NBA team now has the indignity of seeing one of its players kicked out of the league. 

Driving the news: Toronto Raptors player Jontay Porter has received a lifetime ban from the NBA after an investigation found he broke the league’s gambling rules by betting on games and, more seriously, manipulating games that he played to benefit sports bettors.

  • In one particularly egregious instance of bet-fixing, a bettor wagered US$80,000 that Porter would fail to achieve certain stats in a game.

  • Porter feigned illness to leave this game early to ensure the bet would hit. It would have netted $1.1 million… if the activity hadn’t been flagged as suspicious. 

Zoom out: As the widespread legalization of single-game sports betting hit Canada and the U.S. in recent years, there has been a correlating spike in sports betting offences. 

  • At least a dozen NFL players have been suspended since 2018 — the year the U.S. Supreme Court opened up sports betting — for violations relating to gambling. 

  • The NHL handed out its first sports gambling-related suspension since the rollicking 1940s earlier this season, suspending Ottawa Senator Shane Pinto for 41 games.

  • And the MLB is still abuzz after a criminal investigation concluded that the interpreter of superstar Shohei Ohtani embezzled money from his boss to gamble on sports.

Why it matters: It’s become clear that pro sports have a very real gambling problem that is beginning to infect the integrity of the product. As fans are bombarded with an endless stream of sportsbook ads, they can no longer trust if they’re watching a clean game.—QH