The period for public comments closed this week on a proposal by the Ontario Alcohol and Gaming commission to ban the use of sports stars in the online gambling ads that are dominating sports broadcasts these days. The Commission, however has made it clear that they favour a ban on the use of these spokespersons. If you watched any of the post season hockey games recently, you also watched about eight and a half minutes of advertising for on-line sports betting. I can’t count the number of times I have seen Wayne Gretzky and Conner McDavid extoling the virtues of the ‘BetMGM’ online sports betting website. Sport gambling has taken off in recent years to become a major multibillion dollar industry everywhere, offering the excitement of betting on your favorite sporting activity with the lure of winning easy money. Professional sports franchises and broadcasters have jumped on the bandwagon to be in bed with the betting companies to make even more money. Unfortunately, this comes at a cost to society since gambling can easily become addictive causing pain and suffering to everyone involved.
What is troubling is that the sport heroes involved in this advertising have a strong influence on their fans, especially the young ones in their early years who are charmed by whatever their idols do or say. Thus, they figure why not try placing a bet or two, believing that you are too smart to ever get hooked to the point of it becoming a problem. Most forget that the odds are always stacked in favour of the ‘house’ and ultimately the betters are the losers in the long run. In the case of on-line sports betting, these companies have huge advertising budgets and pay millions to get sports celebrities to promote their product. By the way these sports celebrities with a high-profile brand name are already some of the highest paid members of society. In other words, ‘they need another million or two like a hole in the head’ as the saying goes.
In a story in the current publication of Maclean’s magazine the life of a gambling addict is portrayed in vivid detail showing the bitter consequences of his habit taking over his life from as early as ten years of age. Sadly, his story is not unique. It happens all too often and is becoming more frequent. One quote from the article is quite telling, “Sports betting is more accessible than ever, seamlessly connected to phones and credit cards. Gamblers can lose their life savings without even getting out of bed.”
Over the last few years Canada’s federal and provincial governments have not missed the opportunity to get a piece of the action on the pretext that they were losing tax revenue to offshore betting. It may turn out that they were not looking at the big picture factoring in the unintended consequences of younger generations being brainwashed by their superstars into believing betting on sports is a cool thing to do without any regard to the dark side of gambling. Realistically it must be considered that many professional experts regard gambling addiction as a mental health disorder.
The government is hypocritical, no surprise there! They warn us about alcoholism but the LCBO advertises alcohol. They warn ageist gambling but not only do they run a lottery but they gladly accept revenues from gambling
Hear, hear. Kudos to Roy Merkley for calling it as he sees it. I only hope that the provincial government reads his piece. We have a friend whose brother lost his entire inheritance in a matter of months from internet gambling. As a society we need to stop enabling self serving corporations and celebrities whose only interest is in adding to their fortunes.