Why Ontario Banned UFC Betting in Ontario

UFC, or Ultimate Fighting Championship, is arguably the biggest mixed martial arts organization in the world.
Their events are mainstream and can draw huge crowds. They feature some of the biggest names in the sport, such as Conor McGregor, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Ronda Rousey.

McGregor is among the best-known UFC athletes, having won three consecutive UFC titles. He is arguably the biggest name in UFC history and a figurehead for the organization, appearing in TV advertisements, magazine spreads and even a documentary. McGregor even has his own book, The Mental Floss of Conor McGregor, which was released in 2017 and became a New York Times Best Seller.

The Growth Of MMA In Canada

While Canada has historically been averse to violence, the country has made significant inroads into mixed martial arts (MMA) over the last several years.

In 2008, there were only a few MMA gyms and fight promotions in the country. However, in the last eight years, the sport has seen explosive growth, with over a dozen MMA gyms having opened their doors in Toronto alone.

The UFC’s growth in Canada is in part due to their television contract with the sport’s main provider, the Sports Network.
Under the terms of the contract, the UFC is the only U.S.-based MMA organization to be showcased on SN Sports in Canada.

Prior to 2017, SN Sports only covered American sports, which made it difficult for fans in Canada to keep up with the latest UFC news. However, in September 2017, the Sports Network and Bell Media partnered to form The Sports Network LLC, paving the way for Canadian fans to get access to more sports content, including the UFC.

UFC Is A Global Company

UFC is a publicly-traded company, valued at nearly US$11 billion.
The company is headquartered in Las Vegas and has offices around the world, including Canada.

UFC’s growth is in part due to their ability to tap into a worldwide market, as well as retain top talent.
UFC fighters are often contracted for several fights, which means they can maintain a steady stream of revenue, even when not competing.

The Legal And Regulatory Climate In Canada

When it comes to combat sports, particularly MMA, Canada has a checkered past.

In 1984, the country passed legislation prohibiting professional wrestling. The Canadian Billiken Royals, an indie promotion, sued and won a landmark case, forcing the Canadian Wrestling Association to cancel their exclusive contract with the WWF and return any unsold merchandise. However, pro wrestling is now widely accepted in the country, with the Cani-Steel-Cascade wrestling championship being televised on Fight Club TV.

Several MMA gyms in Canada are owned and promoted by Mitch Ellis, a former pro wrestler who was banned from professional wrestling for life, for selling his connections to WWE and pro wrestling’s United Nations Commission (UN C).
Ellis paid off several corrupt officials, who helped grease the wheels for his promotion, MMA Canada, to gain authorization to promote, matchmaking and, most notably, bet on fights.

Despite these setbacks, Canada’s mixed martial arts community continues to thrive and new gyms pop up every year.

Why Betting Is Illegal In Canada

While in some other countries, such as the U.S., gambling on sports is legal, in Canada it is not.

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms explicitly states: “The law shall prohibit all forms of gambling except casino games played for charitable fundraising purposes.”

This is because gambling is often considered a crime of addiction. In other countries, such as the U.S., sportsbooks handle all the financial transactions for bookmakers, while leaving the actual betting on the matches to clients. This ensures accountability and prevents abuse.

The Rise Of Online Gambling In Canada

With the growth of eSports in Canada and the advent of online sportsbooks, betting on sports has become easier than ever.

The majority of online casinos in Canada are considered legal, as they are licensed and regulated by the British Columbia Lottery Corporation. The only exception to this is the BetOnSports site, which does not have a license. As a result, it is not officially considered legal for Canadians to bet on sports at this time.

The Impact Of Legalizing Sports Betting

The Canadian province of Ontario recently passed legislation, officially legalizing sports betting, with the bills becoming law on January 1st, 2018. (A similar law was previously passed in Quebec in 2014, though that law has not been fully implemented.)

This has significant implications for the UFC, particularly in light of the fact that several of their stars, such as McGregor, are based in the province. Once legal, sports betting in Ontario will allow the UFC to tap into a larger audience and potentially generate more revenue.

Additionally, legalizing sports betting in Ontario will mean that larger Canadian bookmakers, who currently operate illegally, will have to shift their attention to sports, rather than prop bets and casino games, which they specialize in. This has the potential to create more competitive markets, as smaller, more exclusive bookmakers will be forced to enter the fray, if they wish to stay in business.

What Does This Mean For The UFC?

The passage of time will tell how the legalization of sports betting in Ontario will impact the UFC.

Prior to January 2018, McGregor was one of the biggest stars in the country, having grown his fan base significantly in the last few years.

Additionally, several of the country’s biggest MMA promoters are headquartered in the Toronto area, with MMA Canada stocking and promoting several local fight cards per year.

However, with the new laws, McGregor and the rest of the country’s MMA stars will have to take their chances on the international stage, rather than focusing on domestic shows, as the UFC will have exclusive rights to shows in Canada.

What About The Future Of Canadian MMA?

With the growth of MMA in Canada, particularly in Ontario, and the legalization of sports betting in the country, the future of Canadian MMA looks bright.

Legalization has opened up a new market for the UFC and other combat sports organizations, allowing them to tap into a larger audience and potentially new revenue streams.

Additionally, the future looks promising for Canadian fight promotions, as more and more talented MMA athletes are flocking to the country, drawn by the opportunity for greater earning potential and the growing competitive market.

The fight game is more popular than ever and will only continue to grow in popularity as more and more people see it as a viable alternative to traditional sports like football and hockey. The future of Canadian mixed martial arts looks very promising.