Single-event sports betting became legal across Canada in August 2021. And when Ontario online gambling came to be in April, sportsbooks ads were everywhere. At least according to some.
Ontario online sportsbook advertising provides welcome revenue to broadcasters like TSN and Sportsnet after years of cost-cutting measures and cutbacks.
Some industry experts believe that wave of advertising will lessen as a smaller number of leading sportsbooks assert their dominance. The rush for consumers, however, could last for at least another year.
In the meantime, it’s not surprising to see Canadian viewers show their frustration.
Institutions like the Responsible Gambling Council, among others, worry the constant flood of online gambling ads will hurt those already at risk for addiction. And they aren’t alone, as industry experts join the chorus, sharing their concerns publicly.
Dave Hodge: Ontario online sportsbook ads annoying
The former host of CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada, Dave Hodge, is not shy about expressing his opinion. No matter the price.
In 1987, Hodge didn’t hide his frustration when CBC ditched a tied Habs-Flyers game for the news. The outburst cost him his job.
Hodge believes the explosion of advertising by sports betting companies today is the show’s attempt to incorporate gambling into its content. “But if you’re asking me what I would have done under those circumstances in 1980, I would have stood up and said, ‘It goes, or I go.'”
“I know of where I speak with taking a stance like that but think of what would happen if I did that – one way or the other, I’m a hero. Either I get rid of it, and everybody applauds. Or I lose my job, and everybody applauds because I took a stand.”
Hodge refused to apologize, referring to ads as an “annoyance.”
Kevin Waugh: Every third posting
One of the lawmakers that pushed forward the legalization of single-event sports betting in Canada, Kevin Waugh, agreed that the sports betting ads have been “a little excessive.”
According to Waugh:
“We don’t get it (gambling commercials) in Saskatchewan, but when I come here to Ottawa, my Twitter feed is filled with all these ads. Like every third posting. It’s gone overboard.”
Waugh is also “totally shocked” to see active professional athletes signing agreements with gambling companies.
Responsible gambling advocates share their fear
Children who see sports betting commercials during games have responsible gambling advocates worried. What concerns them the most is the impact the normalization of sports betting might have on youth.
The director of the Gambling Awareness Program with the Mental Health Association’s Saskatchewan division, Shauna Altrogge, expressed her concerns too. She worries about “fairly robust advertising” for “heavily-promoted” sports betting apps and platforms. And she highlighted that simply watching a game with your kids may result in children “consuming” betting ads.
“I mean, sitting down and watching the hockey game in the evening, and you’ve got little kids consuming those same ads. Over time, what effect could that possibly have on our younger folks? When you look at all of those things, it’s a bit of a worry.”
She is also concerned about the influence of celebrity endorsements.
Elaine McDougall, the Responsible Gambling Council’s director of marketing and communications, agrees. She said:
“If this is meant to be entertainment, it’s important that you know how to place that wager, how to do this in a safe way so that you’re not spending money that’s intended for rent or groceries.”
12% of commercial content is gambling ads
Ken Campbell, a veteran hockey journalist, revealed intriguing insights after charting two nights of Hockey Night in Canada (HNIC) ads.
Campbell followed two nights of HNIC broadcasts on Sportsnet and recorded each ad spot during the pre-game Hockey Central and the HNIC broadcast. The games in question were Game 4 of the Western Conference final (June 6) and Game 4 of the Eastern Conference final (June 7).
Here’s what he found:
- 12.28% of Hockey Night in Canada’s sponsored content was for sports betting platforms
- 285 advertisements/promotions over the two nights, out of which 35 were for online sports betting platforms
Campbell concluded Sportsnet and other sports broadcasters are “tapping into the hundreds of millions of dollars Canadians spend on sports betting every year.”
Although the 12% occurrence shows otherwise, the perception among some viewers is they are bombarded by commercials every time they tune into a game.