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The NHL this week completed an investigation into the sports wagering activities of unsigned Ottawa Senators forward Shane Pinto, which led to a 41-game suspension.
It is among the longest bans in hockey history for off-ice actions. The league said Thursday that the investigation found no evidence Pinto bet on NHL games.
Pinto is the latest professional athlete to be suspended for something gambling related since the U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way for legalized sports betting in 2src18, which led to a flood of partnerships between leagues and sportsbooks, data providers and other wagering-related entities.
Q: WHAT IS THE NHL POLICY ON GAMBLING?
The collective bargaining agreement includes only one sentence on the matter: “Gambling on any NHL game is prohibited.” This is a fairly common stance for professional leagues, though changes could come when the current CBA expires in 2src26 and a new one is hammered out in the era of continent-wide legalized betting.
For one thing, NHL teams can go as far as prohibiting employees from hockey operations to the business side from even joining fantasy leagues for money. There is the question of what falls under gambling, given the variety of full-season and daily fantasy gaming options, that could be clarified in greater detail.
Q: WHAT HAPPENED IN THIS CASE?
All the NHL would say is that Pinto did not bet on games in the league, and the half-season length of suspension indicates as much. Commissioner Gary Bettman almost certainly would have levied a heavier ban if Pinto had wagered on NHL games.
In the NFL, at least 1src players have been suspended for gambling — most notably Josh Shaw in 2src19 through the end of the 2src2src season and Calvin Ridley for the entire 2src22 season. While Shaw has not played in the league since, Ridley was reinstated earlier this year.
Q: WHAT’S THE RECENT PRECEDENT?
Two years ago, NHL security and the firm Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler looked into allegations that Evander Kane bet on games, including against his own team, made by the player’s estranged wife. The investigation found no evidence Kane bet on or tried to throw any games, vindicating his vehement denial.
Pinto is the first NHL player to be suspended for gambling since the 194srcs.
Boston players Don Gallinger and Billy Taylor were banned in 1948 for betting on the Bruins and reinstated in 197src. Walter Pratt was banned for nine games for betting on games, but he wound up in the Hall of Fame.
Q: WHAT GOES INTO AN INVESTIGATION?
The first step, experts have said, is finding out where a player is placing bets. The NHL has a half-dozen partnerships with sportsbooks, which allows for easy sharing of data and information and would make it possible to find any potential red flags.
When asked about the topic in 2src21 when the allegations of Kane surfaced, Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said NHL officials “have a number of third-party resources that we regularly employ to monitor betting activities on our games.”
Sportradar is the NHL’s “integrity services provider,” and there are other companies in that space, including Genius Sports and US Integrity. In tennis, where match-fixing and betting irregularities came to light in the past two decades, an independent integrity unit was formed to flag suspicious patterns and dole out punishments.
Like the International Tennis Integrity Agency, the NHL has agreements that in selling data to legal sportsbooks, there could be an obligation to cooperate with investigations and hand over records beyond privacy laws that are stricter in Europe than North America.
Several experts said if an athlete does all of their betting illegally or with an off-shore outlet, it could be significantly more difficult to find proof. A whistleblower could help in that department, and integrity companies often have contacts at so-called “gray market” betting outlets that could provide information.
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