A dive into the surge of Canadian sports gambling

The risks, the rewards, the ubiquitousness

Sports betting in Canada has become remarkably common place. As of 2021, through the
ratification of Bill C-218, Canada legalized single-game sports betting, shifting the immense
and illegal cash-flow to a government regulated cash-flow.

There are certainly economic pros to this, for the government can increase income without
taxing its citizens. However, there are also serious concerns about the impressionability of
youth and the potential future consequences of unifying sports and sports betting.

The demographic of 17-year-olds to those in their mid-twenties is already generally
associated with the highest involvement in gambling, due to newly found independence, the
desire to find oneself and attractive factors like risk and adventure seeking.

According to department of sociology and criminology professor Jason D. Edgerton, who
has conducted extensive research on the topic of gambling, most of the time, “it’s a
transitory thing,” meaning youth and young adults typically grow out of the habit.

Nonetheless, with the advent of online betting, one of the concerns shrouding sports
gambling, and which may lead to pathological gambling, is its sheer prevalence and

“You can’t watch TV, especially if you watch TSN or Sportsnet,” Edgerton said, “you’re just
bombarded by all these online betting platforms with former sports celebrities and athletes
telling you this is the place to bet.”

Aside from the ads sports programs air, the Canadian sports media industry itself has also
become saturated with betting content, including a breakdown of odds during the
intermissions of Hockey Night in Canada games.

One is left to wonder what the possible consequences of a generation of kids growing up
watching the intertwining of sports and sports gambling may be.

Further, it is not even difficult to sign up for an online gambling site. All one needs is a
debit card and the nerve to lie about their age.

Yet another problem sports gamblers may face is succumbing to the illusion of control as
they chase a sense of mastery, with advertisers playing on potential sports bettors’ egos.

“A lot of the advertising that targets sports bettors focuses on reduced risk, saying ‘it’s not
as risky, you’re a sports fan, it’s not that risky,’” Edgerton explained.

“‘We give you the odds, you watch it, you pay attention — it’s a game of skill.’”

“’It’s not regular gambling, it’s just sports betting, and you know about sports.’”

Edgerton notes, too, that the social stigmas surrounding gambling have been demolished,
and now that the government is involved, it makes the whole sports gambling scene much
more normalized as well.

And as people gamble online at home, as opposed to the archaic way of getting up and
going to a casino, the likelihood of them consuming alcohol while they gamble also
increases, which would impact their ability to think rationally about the decisions they’re

Edgerton points to the correlation that sports bettors, particularly online sports bettors,
have an increased chance of having a gambling problem.

However, Edgerton also notes that “the question is: ‘is it the sports betting that lead to
that?’ or is it that the fact that, in general, people with gambling problems tend to engage in
more diverse kinds of gambling activities?”

Sorting out these discrepancies will take some time, as the prevalence of sports betting in
Canada is still novel.

Nonetheless, “live-in-play betting seems particularly risky to me,” Edgerton added.
“People get into ‘the zone,’ right? Where you’re gambling and gambling and you lose track
of time and how much money you’ve spent.”

It seems online gambling facilitates entry into “the zone” quite neatly, for people can bet on
any game from anywhere there’s an internet connection. And when the game’s not on, the
commercials are laced with sports gambling content too, so there’s no escaping it.

Moreover, the constant repetition of in-play-betting may severely affect those who already
have problems with compulsivity and self-control as well, rendering them even more
vulnerable to addiction.

Ultimately, sports gambling has become ubiquitous, but the potential consequences of its
influx into the mainstream sports world cannot be known for many years because it is still so

However, as the government of Canada has embraced sports gambling, and it’s here to
stay, at least for now, its task is to find ways of making it more responsible.

According to Edgerton, some of the best tactics people can use to avoid developing
harmful gambling habits is to set time limits, monetary limits and to not chase losses,
meaning, don’t think the next bet will win it all back.

“‘Next hand’s going to win, or next pull’s going to get it for me,’ you say, ‘no, that’s my
budget, I’m out,’” Edgerton explained.

“That idea, like I said, [of] breaking up that flow of being in ‘the zone’ where you’re not paying
attention to the outside world.”