Since the recent advancements in the Canadian gambling industry, sports betting ads have been on the rise and are now impossible to miss. They feature some high-profile sports stars such as Great One himself, Wayne Gretzky and other NHL stars. However, as part of an investigation by The Fifth Estate into sports betting, those athletes refused to comment on their endorsement deals.
In the summer of 2021, Canada legalized single-event wagering which then pave the way for Ontario which opened the first open iGaming model in the country. That is why a huge portion of the promotional material is targeting the province and feature many popular athletes, but parents and experts from the country have expressed alarm on the possible effect on children and bettors.
Unwilling to Comment
In a recent investigation of sports betting in the Great White North, The Fifth Estate contacted some of the hockey stars to learn more about their multi-million-dollar deals with the gambling operators. However, the athletes refused to comment on the topic. The investigation began after recently the UK banned gaming ads featuring sports stars as they could affect children.
Brian Masse, the NDP member of Parliament for Windsor West, Ontario, came up with the controversial statement that these sports stars are compromised. He also argued that with the legalization of iGaming in Ontario, the grey market could be pushed out of the country, while provinces introduce a safer one, and harness tax revenue for the benefit of their locals.
The NDP also notes that such athletes have already been successful in their careers and their value should be based on their performances and not on their influence on people. He is also alarmed about the fact that many children idolize those stars, watch games on TV and become the subject of these ads. That is why he wants to see something done about these commercials.
Darragh McGee, a lecturer with the department for health at the University of Bath in western England, said that in Gretzky’s case as in other athletes, the message of the ad is that gambling is a desirable activity for an entire generation. The expert noted that many young men find it difficult to make it 90 minutes without placing a wager on a game.
In response, the CEO of the Canadian Gaming Association, which has partnered with some of the biggest gaming brands in the industry, said that companies have the right to advertise. He said that the province knew about the influx of ads with the legalization of the market, and claimed that companies are not intentionally trying to influence children with their ads.
Experts are Concerned
Even more experts from the industry have shared their concerns about the recent spike in the availability of sports betting. David Hodgins, a professor of clinical psychology at the University of Calgary commented that sports wagering has evolved and is now similar to slot machines due to its availability and the ability to wager on almost everything.
Source: Sawa, Timothy; Culbert, Andrew; Singh Aulakh, Satbir; McKeown, Bob “NHL stars mum on gambling endorsement deals” CBC, January 12, 2023