Sports betting front and centre during NHL playoffs

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Sports betting front and centre during NHL playoffs
Many fans of the NHL have noticed a rise in the number of gambling advertisements during the post-season. As Michael King reports, this has some addiction experts concerned it could cause a rise in problem gambling – May 23, 2022

The action throughout the first two rounds of the NHL playoffs have kept fans on the edge of their seat, but there’s been an unmistakable addition to this year’s post-season.

Anyone who has watched a game on any of the major networks can’t miss the increase in advertisements highlighting sports gambling websites.

These playoffs mark the first season that single-game betting has been legal in Canada, with the Senate approving Bill C-218 back in June 2021.

Dr. Michael Naraine, a professor in the department of sports and management at Brock University, said it’s no surprise that sportsbooks are looking to solidify their market share early on.

“The game is customer acquisition, and once customers start to join up with different operators, we’re going to see consolidation,” said Naraine. “Four or five major players will eke out the most amount of market share.”

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Naraine added that while it’s not surprising that companies are snapping up prime-time ad space, most people don’t realize how much a sportsbook is willing to pay to obtain a single new customer.

“Each individual operator is willing to part with roughly $750 per person to acquire a new customer,” Naraine said. “That’s a significant amount when you think about the traditional advertising, the non-traditional advertising like social media and also the influencer marketing.”

Naraine points to the number of high-profile stars that have signed on to be the face of different gambling sites, including Wayne Gretzky, Aaron Paul and Jamie Foxx.

Click to play video: 'Normalizing sports betting can lead to payoffs and pitfalls'
Normalizing sports betting can lead to payoffs and pitfalls

Addiction Concerns

The rise in gambling advertisements also has addiction experts concerned about a potential spike in problem gambling.

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Dr. David Hodgins is the director of the University of Calgary’s Addictive Behaviours Lab and said he’s concerned about who the ads are targeting.

“(The advertisements) really introduce younger people and people who may not previously be interested or involved with gambling,” said Hodgins. “They see it as something that everybody is doing.”

Hodgins points to other jurisdictions that have also legalized single-game betting and are now dealing with the influx of advertisements.

“Places like the UK are busy trying to rein in gambling advertising that has been perceived as harmful,” said Hodgins.

“We need to be collecting research evidence to help inform what is the right level of promotion that’s going to minimize the amount of harm that could be associated with sports betting.”

Allen Kharlip is an addiction counsellor with Last Door Recovery Centre in New Westminster, B.C.

He said that as sports broadcasters increase the number of references to gambling, more people may need to change their viewing habits.

“If somebody’s addiction to gambling becomes out of control, unfortunately, you’re going to start to see some people not being able to watch sports anymore because of it,” said Kharlip.

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He adds that over the next five to 10 years, he expects to see a rise in the number of problem gamblers.

Several services are available for those wanting help with problem gambling, including Alberta Health Service’s Addiction Helpline.

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