As gambling continues to rise in both availability and popularity, players associations from major North American leagues are making education and awareness a point of emphasis for their clients.
The Major League Soccer Players Association announced June 28 a three-year partnership with Entain Foundation U.S. and EPIC Risk Management. Together, the organizations will provide gambling awareness educational programs, advisory resources, and harm prevention education for MLS athletes.
MLSPA COO Dan Jones views the collaboration as both timely and uplifting for the players union.
“This partnership with EPIC Risk Management and Entain Foundation U.S will enhance our ability to educate and equip our player pool as the presence and inherent risks of sports betting continue to evolve and permeate players’ lives.”
The MLS is home to 29 teams, three of which are in Canada: Toronto FC, the Vancouver Whitecaps and the Montreal Impact.
The league will expand to 30 for the 2025 season. Earlier this year, San Diego was selected as the newest MLS host city.
Alliance forms with concerns of match-fixing on the rise
Earlier this month, at the Symposium on Competition Manipulation and Gambling in Sport in Toronto, match-fixing was a hot topic. There, experts warned that Canadian competitions are vulnerable to such threats because of insufficiencies in the Canadian Criminal Code.
The Canadian Football League took proactive action against these cautions, drafting and later enacting the CFL Match Manipulation Policy. The league also partnered with the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport to launch an e-learning course that educates CFL players and personnel on the details of the new policy.
MLS player involved in match-fixing scandal in May
Notably, back in May, the MLS dealt with its own match-fixing incident involving Colorado Rapids winger Max Alves. Allegedly, Alves accepted a payment to receive a yellow card in a match against the LA Galaxy last season. The 22-year-old Brazilian national was later suspended from team activities for alleged “unlawful sports gambling.” The investigation into this case remains ongoing.
This troubling development serves as a stark reminder that match-fixing is real and can happen at any level of sport. As such, the new MLSPA-specific gambling education program and associated resources will be readily accessible for all teams. Ben McGregor, director of sports partnerships at EPIC Risk Management, says the program will also include lessons from reformed problem gamblers.
“This program is intended to provide MLSPA members with informed understanding to minimize the risk of sporting integrity issues that can arise from gambling activities, as well as utilizing our considerable lived experience from facilitators who have elite sports backgrounds, who can also advise on the effects that gambling-related harm can have on an individual’s performance and welfare.”
Entain and EPIC had strong MLS ties before league-wide program
Prior to the union between Entain Foundation US, EPIC Risk Management, and the MLSPA, the responsible gambling awareness groups had already been working with Chicago Fire FC. In August 2021, the Fire became the first MLS team to launch a problem gambling and sports betting integrity initiative.
Building on the pre-existing relationship between Entain, EPIC, and the MLS is something McGregor sees as a positive step forward.
“We are looking forward to working with the MLSPA and its membership in delivering this national program to provide crucial education and advice regarding the ever-growing relationship between wagering and professional sports in the U.S.
“This is an important new step in our relationship with the Major Leagues in the U.S. and we’re delighted to extend upon our existing soccer partnerships around the world by working with the MLSPA, leading players and teams from the MLS.”
Jones says the MLSPA also looks forward to furthering its relationship with Entain and EPIC.
“We look forward to working alongside them to ensure players have access to crucial education, resources and support.”
Entain Foundation US and EPIC Risk Management also have other big-name clients outside of the MLS. Currently, the organization’s also run education programs with the NCAA and the National Football League Players Association.