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Hockey fans can likely bet on seeing more gambling-related advertising — for now | CBC News

Talk to a hockey fan, and you’re likely to have something to share about the recent betting content in NHL broadcasts.

Gordon Rendell wrote via email from Happy Valley,Goose Bay (N.L.) and summarizing the frustration he and others are feeling.

There are TV ads that promote sports betting and broadcast segments dedicated to it. Digital ads on arena boards which promote sports book companies are all part of fierce competition for people who want to gamble.

Billboards in downtown Toronto advertising online sports betting brands are pictured on Friday. More than ten companies are now legally taking online bets on sporting events from Ontarians. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Robert Suggitt (61), an Edmontonian, said that “it turns me off.” He’s been watching the game since he was young and still does, despite all of the promotions.

Dave Hodge , a veteran sports broadcaster, is not a fan either of the gaming push — both for what it means to the sport and for viewers who are watching it on-air.

Hodge said, “I think it’s skewing telecast,” and that it could be dangerous for the integrity the sport.

Fresh market

After legalization of single-event betting in Canada last ye, there has been a sharp increase in betting-related content within hockey media. This allowed the provinces to regulate gambling within these regions.

Ontario was the first to launch a regulated betting market. There are now two-digit companies that can legally place online bets on sporting events in Ontarians.

Promoting a new sports-betting market in Ontario:

 

Experts worry about influence of Ontario’s sports betting ads

Experts are concerned that sports betting ads are appearing all over Ontario. They could be reaching audiences outside of the province and tempting them to gamble on unregulated sites.

Similar events have occurred in the United States after a U.S. Supreme Court decision allowed wider adoption of sports betting across the country in 2018.

The New York Times reports 31 states allow sports betting online or in-person. Five other states are open to doing so in the future.

Victor Matheson is a professor of economics at College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, Mass. He said that the U.S. and Canada offer many potential customers to gaming companies.

Matheson, a specialist in sports economics, said, “We have a lot of money coming in — both to the U.S.A and Canada.”

Between April and June, bettors in Ontario registered more that $4 billion in wagers. This total reached $6 billion in the next quarter.

Star power can be leveraged

Sport betting companies in Canada are making great efforts to attract hockey fans and their betting dollars.

Toronto Maple Leafs forward Auston Matthews is seen skating in front of a section of board displaying a PointsBet advertisement, during a game against the Vancouver Canucks at Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena earlier this month. The star goal-scorer inked an endorsement deal with a different company — Bet99. (John E. Sokolowski/USA TODAY Sports)

These companies have signed deals with the NHL that give them more visibility at events and broadcasts. FanDuel, and BetMGM have signed partnership agreements that allow them to “use official NHL branding…to appeal to fans, and sports betting customers” in Canada and the U.S.

You can also sign endorsement deals with prominent players like Auston Matthews, the Maple Leafs’ prolific goal-scorer, and Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers’ superstar, who have an endorsement deal with Bet99.

Fans are not all the same.

Rendell, a Labradorian hockey fan who has been a lifelong fan, points out , a commercial featuring McDavid and Wayne Gretzky . The idea is that a distracted No. 99 is more interested in a basketball bet that the current Edmonton star.

“So ridiculous,” said Rendell.

Social costs

Concerns have been raised about the potential harms that sports gambling may cause.

Pro sports, betting and risks for bettors:

Art26:30Sports Betting Addiction

Single-event betting on sports is booming in Canada. There are many incentives and ads encouraging people to place a bet. A gambling counselor and a recovering gambler worry that it is easier than ever to become dangerously addicted. They want more to stop advertising and support treatment.

Many people who watch hockey at home are concerned about the media and broadcast side of this industry promotion.

Hodge stated, “The sell is difficult, it’s always there.” It’s impossible to escape it.

Matthew Young, director of research and evidence at Greo Evidence and Insights , an organization that studies problem gambling said that sports have always had a positive image.

Young believes that these promotions should be more tightly regulated.

It’s not only adults who watch hockey games, but also young viewers who will see those ads.

“They will grow up in an environment that makes them very, very aware about sports betting and gambling. It’s been introduced to them very early on.”

More news and more content

Steve McAllister closely follows the developments in sports betting and produces Gaming News Canada, a twice-weekly newsletter that covers the industry. It launched in January 2021.

Kyle Connor celebrates a goal, while near a part of the boards displaying a sports book company’s advertisement, during a Nov. 3 game against the Montreal Canadiens. (James Carey Lauder/USA TODAY Sports)

He has seen the industry generate more news as it grows.

McAllister, vice-president of Parleh Media Group and editor-in chief, said that “[Initially] it was difficult to write 700 words per week.”

He listens to what the fans have to say about changes in hockey broadcasts. He sees it as a puzzle that broadcasters are trying to solve.

“How can you present information about sports betting that isn’t going to offend people who don’t care about betting?” McAllister’s sports media career includes work in journalism and communications.

“That’s the dilemma, that’s what’s the problem.”

CBC News reached out to the NHL for feedback on this issue. The league did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

The future

The world is aware of sports betting. It may be possible to get a glimpse from other parts of the world how it might fare in the long-term.

A billboard advertising an online sportsbook and casino brand is seen in downtown Toronto on Friday. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Matheson, a sports economist, stated that the United Kingdom has legalized sports betting for many decades. Some of the marquee companies in the country — some of them entering Canada — spend large to promote their businesses.

He said that roughly half of all teams participating in the English Premier League currently have a betting sponsor for their primary jersey sponsor.

This could be a sign of the potential investments these industry players could make in North American sport.

As the market matures, the frenzy of spending may also change.

McAllister predicts that economic realities will ultimately inform the decisions being taken.

He said, “You can only invest millions of dollars in advertising for so long.”

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