20-Something Year Old Bettors Talk About Ontario’s Open Gambling Market

Written By Matthew Lomon on April 4, 2023 - Last Updated on April 6, 2023
20-something bettors

Today (April 4) marks the one-year anniversary of the launch of the legal Ontario online casino and sports betting market. In that time, so much has changed. We asked a key demographic of 20-something bettors what they think of it all. They all spoke exclusively to PlayCanada.

In just a year’s time, the dialogue around gambling, especially problem gambling, has grown. Integration is at an all-time high. And bettor protection finally has meaning. Obviously, these developments mean different things to different demographics of bettors.

Twenty-somethings, a group to which I belong, are typically more attune to the online wagering scene than most others. Well, at least we think we are. To learn more about how the regulated market has influenced our lives, I spoke with four good friends, who, paired with me, form a respectable cross-section of our demographic. We all live in the Greater Toronto Area.

Here’s what I found.

The influx of gambling ads draws mixed reviews

The general assumption that gambling advertisements resonate more with inexperienced bettors than experienced bettors makes logical sense. Those who don’t play need a reason to and those who actively play have already found one.

After speaking with friends on both ends of the spectrum, that assessment rings true.

Caden Hodgson, who considers himself a casual gambler, views the number of advertisements as a motivator for inexperienced gamblers.

“I see these ads as de-stigmatizing gambling and lowering the barriers for entry by enticing a new audience.”

However, the feeling is not mutual when it comes to his personal relationship with wagering advertisements.

“Being a casual gambler, playing once or twice per month at most, I haven’t felt compelled to bet any more than that.

“In all honesty, I find that, sometimes, the number of gambling advertisements almost put me off, since I know some marketing type lost their money to pay for all those commercials.”

Hodgson’s sentiments mostly fall in line with that of Jared Addison, a young, but experienced bettor who understands industry trends.

“Broadly, I consider ads a motivator for inexperienced bettors because being in on the action during games would seem appealing. But I almost want to say they’re a deterrent because the over saturation seems like networks are promoting problem gambling.”

Over saturation is a key point of emphasis for Addison, and one that drives his disdain for the ads.

“I don’t like the volume of advertisements. I pay little-to-no mind to them,” he said. “I’ll always find myself skipping back and forth between games that are on TV to avoid commercials, whether I have money on the games or not.”

The final verdict on ads: they might motivate others, but they’re not for us.

Habits remain relatively the same for semi-regular to regular bettors

Thus far, the lesson has been that active, 20-something bettors don’t require additional motivation to get in on the action. But why is that the case?

Internal factors keep wagering outputs at bay

According to Addison, finding and maintaining a rhythm that best suits your individual gambling desires helps cut down on the clutter.

“It’s about finding what works best for you, personally,” he said. “My betting habits have remained fairly consistent since I’ve started betting and I think most people that were betting before regulation would say the same.”

Some of the clutter Addison alluded to was the integration of betting picks on sports talk television programs and ‘betting personalities’ to follow on social media.

“It’s easy to get caught up in what’s in front of you almost 24/7, but at the end of the day, it’s always important to remember that you have the final say.”

For David Bricks, a semi-regular bettor, this form of self-awareness proved powerful in his decision to reduce his gambling activity.

“In the last few months, I’ve cut down on my betting habits,” he said. “In the early stages of regulation, I used to bet much more frequently and did it to make money. But I’ve realized that’s not possible in the long run, so now I just do it for fun.”

Fun is, or at least should be, the ultimate goal for bettors. And, for us 20-something’s, the environment we’re in carries significant influence.

Location, location, location

Which settings are most conducive to betting activities among my demographic? The (obvious) answer: social gatherings.

“I usually place bets based on two things: which teams are playing and whether or not I am with friends,” said Bricks. “I bet much more frequently when with friends.”

This is an interesting comment because it reflects what Hodgson told me in a separate conversation regarding ads.

“From my experience, I found that ads, especially during games on TV, are triggers for some semi-regular bettors to pull out their phones and bet on that game.”

In my mind, these nights of game watching naturally stimulate impromptu betting for four reasons:

  1. The majority of viewers there are sports fans.
  2. Odds are, someone in the room has already placed a wager coming in.
  3. Said person is going to bring it up as the game goes on.
  4. Others are overcome with fear of missing out and join in.

This same formula applies to watching games in-person and meshes with what Will Stewart, the last of the 20-somethings, told me.

“Watching games live, I used to place bets occasionally,” he said. “Now, it’s something I do every time I go to a game because it makes an already exciting experience even more exciting.”

Entertainment and excitement are two thrills us kids regularly seek, we just prefer to try our hand on the field instead of the table.

Sports betting reigns supreme over casino games

The unanimous decision among all five 20-somethings (myself included) is that sports betting best fits what we want from gambling.

According to Stewart, there are three reasons why people may prefer sports gambling over casino games.

One: it’s more entertaining. You’re watching a sports game that unfolds over a few hours and has a material impact outside the bet, rather than just betting on random meaningless numbers.

Two: if you know a lot about sports, it feels like you have a better chance to make money by using your own knowledge and discerning what lines are valuable as opposed to leaving it up to sheer luck with a casino.

Three: I think some people lack trust in virtual casinos. Sports are a lot harder to fix or rig.”

Though it may not align with the average mindset for someone in our demographic, I agree with Stewart’s rationale. Being the avid sports fans we are, our natural inclination is to bet something we’re familiar with. Surely, there are bettors my age who feel more comfortable playing casino games, our group just hasn’t felt compelled yet.

“For me, sports betting and casino usage is split 95-5 in favour of sports betting,” said Bricks. “I have a good thing going with sports betting and don’t want to wager my money elsewhere.”

Perhaps the best way to summarize our relationship with betting is Addison’s response to a question gauging his interest in casinos.

“No online casinos for me.”

Photo by Jenn Montgomery / PlayCanada
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Matthew Lomon

Matthew Lomon has been a contributor at Catena Media’s network of regional sites since July 2022. He first broke into covering the legal North American gambling industry with PlayCanada. Since then, Matthew's reporting has extended to PlayMichigan, PlayPennsylvania, and PlayIllinois. Based out of Toronto, Ontario, Matthew is an avid (bordering on fanatic) sports fan.

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