The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) has taken a surprising step to pause all betting on UFC fights.
On Thursday, the AGCO published the following statement on its website:
In order to protect the betting public, effective immediately, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) is requiring all registered casino, lottery and igaming operators that offer sport and event betting products in Ontario to stop offering and accepting wagers on Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) events due to concerns about non-compliance with AGCO’s betting integrity requirements.
The Registrar’s Standards include rules to safeguard against odds manipulation, match-fixing and other sports betting integrity issues. Operators must specifically ensure that:
For sporting events being bet on, the event must be effectively supervised by a sport governing body which must, at minimum, prescribe final rules and enforce codes of conduct that include prohibitions on betting by insiders; and
There are integrity safeguards in place which are sufficient to mitigate the risk of match-fixing, cheat-at-play, and other illicit activity that might influence the outcome of bet upon events.
Contrary to the Registrar’s Standards, the UFC does not prohibit all insiders from betting on UFC events, which could include an athlete’s coaches, managers, handlers, athletic trainers, medical professionals, or other persons 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.
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 betting products meet the Registrar’s Standards.
The increased awareness of potential UFC betting manipulation seems to stem from the ongoing investigation into betting irregularities surrounding the UFC Vegas 64 fight between the James Krause-coached Darrick Minner and Shayilan Nuerdanbieke.
Krause, who had hosted a Discord channel and YouTube channel focused on MMA betting (both appear to have been deleted at this time), was in Miner’s corner for that ill-fated contest.
In the hours leading up to that fight, which took place at the UFC Apex, Nuerdanbieke moved from a -220 favorite to -420. U.S. Integrity, a company that investigates betting irregularities, caught the line movement and notified sportsbooks. The organization also noted increased bets for Nuerdanbieke to win via first-round knockout and for the bout to last fewer than 2.5 rounds.
The bets that came in on Nuerdanbieke, who had zero previous finishes with the UFC, cashed when Nuerdanbieke capitalized on a clearly preexisting injury to Minner’s leg and scored a knockout win just one minute and seven seconds into the first round.
U.S. Integrity is not the only organization looking into the Nuerdanbieke vs Minner bout. Following UFC Vegas 64, the UFC released a statement that it would also be looking into the betting around the fight.
“Like many professional sports organizations, UFC works with an independent betting integrity service to monitor wagering activity on our events,” the UFC statement read. “Our betting integrity partner, Don Best Sports, a leading global supplier of real-time betting data for North American sporting events, will conduct a thorough review of the facts and report its findings. At this time, we have no reason to believe either of the athletes involved in the bout, or anyone associated with their teams, behaved in an unethical or irresponsible manner.”
Following his win at UFC Vegas 65, the Krause-cached Miles Johns told UFC commentator Michael Bisping, “My coach, last night at the dinner table, got pulled and they said the UFC was suspending him so he couldn’t be here in my corner…”
ESPN reported after the fight card that Krause had not been formally suspended by the UFC or the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC). However, the two organizations decided that the coach should not corner fighters while there is an open investigation.
The UFC released a statement to ESPN following UFC Vegas 65, which read:
”The wagering activity around the Darrick Minner and Shayilan Nuerdanbieke bout from November 5 remains under review by our betting integrity partner Don Best Sports. 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.”
Prior to that event, the Minner vs. Nuerdanbieke fight was a topic of conversation at the monthly NSAC meeting.
Nevada Deputy Attorney General Joel Bekker said during that meeting that an “injury occurred during training” and that the result of that pre-fight injury, “had all kind of effects on betting lines.”
Bekker added, “I believe we’re going to also take action against him for not disclosing the injury.”
The commission plans to address the issue at its next meeting. During the November session, however, the NSAC took action against Ilir Latifi for not disclosing a medical condition before his most recent fight.
In a precedent-setting ruling, the commission suspended Latifi for three months for not disclosing a staph infection on his pre-fight medical questionnaire. When handing down Latifi’s punishment, the commission noted that future repercussions could be more severe.
In mid-October, the UFC updated its code of conduct to prevent fighters from betting on UFC fights. The memo also noted:
“Athletes should also be aware that in most states these same prohibitions apply to some or all of (i) relatives living in the same household as an athlete. (ii) an athlete’s coaches, managers, handlers, athletic trainers, medical professionals and staff and (iii) any other person with access to non-public information regarding participants in any MMA match.”