Friday, July 19, 2024

National standards needed for sports betting ads, researchers say | CBC News

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Researchers are joining the call for national advertising standards to help dull the steep incline of gambling — especially in sports. 

After legalization in 2021, and despite Ontario being the only province to develop a private market, advertisements for sports betting have flooded TVs and sports stadiums.

According to iGaming Ontario (iGO) — the agency that oversees that province’s online gambling — $63 billion was wagered on online sites registered in Ontario in the last fiscal year, nearly doubling the previous year.

About 15 per cent, or nearly $10 billion of that, was in the category that includes sports betting.

iGO and Deloitte said governments took in a combined $1.2 billion in revenue in that 2023-24 fiscal year from online gaming while “displacing” unregulated sites and services.

That entertainment and money is balanced out by the health risks.

“Gambling harms are much broader to a lot of people: [many] encounter a lot of financial challenges, relationship difficulties, some health issues and certainly some psychological challenges when they become too involved in gambling,” said Matthew Young, co-author of a recent report published by the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse and Addiction. 

He added that research shows that gambling is involved in many cases of suicide, though it is difficult to determine whether it’s the sole cause or a contributing cause. 

The centre’s report recommends clear, consistent national standards with guardrails around where, when and how often sports betting ads can run, plus specifically taking a portion of the money made and putting it back into reducing its health risks.

There’s also a bill working its way through the Senate that calls for establishing national rules.

Increased accessibility, competition

Previously, the only legal way to gamble in Ontario was through the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation. 2021’s Bill C-218 — the Safe and Regulated Sports Betting Act — made gambling on single-event sports betting legal. 

Rather than betting on the final outcome of a game, gamblers could bet on minute aspects of competitions such as who will score the next basket, how many saves or strikeouts a goalie or pitcher will have, or even the colour of the Gatorade poured over the head of the winning coach.

Speaking on CBC Radio’s All In A Day Tuesday, Young compared the act to a slot machine — it speeds up the rate of play, possibly making it more hazardous since people can make single bets throughout a game. 

11:18Why Canada needs a national gambling strategy

Experts are calling for Canada to establish a national strategy to monitor gambling-related harms and control the increase of advertisements that followed Ontario’s legalization of commercial online gambling and sports betting.

Then in April 2022, Ontario began to allow large, privately owned, international gambling corporations such as Bet365 and DraftKings, which increased competition and advertising.

Young said that gambling needs general restrictions, just like cannabis and alcohol. 

“Now it’s available 24 hours a day, seven days a week right on your phone.”

Gambling councillor Steve Rose said he too has seen a rise of patients addicted to gambling in the last few years. 

He agrees that advertisements need to be regulated and said so do his clients, who are mostly men around age 30. 

“[They] think it’s just the most evil thing really. They often use that kind of language … It’s evil that this advertising is allowed because it’s for somebody in recovery,” Rose said.

Oftentimes, being addicted to gambling increases guilt, shame and mental health issues, according to Rose. 

He suggests bet blockers — an app that blocks gambling-related content on your computer or device. 

If you or someone you know is struggling, here’s where to get help:

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