PODCAST: Shawn Rumble, Addiction Recovery Therapist and President of the Canadian Problem Gambling Certification Board, talks about the possible dangers of excessive sports betting and how to gamble safely.
Look closely in any packed sports bar during a close game (pre-pandemic of course), and behind the usual murmur of fans complaining about a bad foul call, or the jubilant high fives after a goal for the home team, something else can be seen if you pay attention – the beads of sweat forming on a sports bettor’s brow.
There is a new sports fan in the world these days, one who is concerned less about their team’s wins and losses, and more about point spreads and totals.
Nik Petros, an avid 27-year-old sports fan, recently dove headfirst into the world of sports betting and is well aware of how gambling has changed his consuming habits.
“When I was young, all I really cared about were my local teams and I followed those teams through the local newspaper,” explained the Calgary-born Petros. “But now that I have the entirety of the sports world at my fingertips, combined with the ability to try and make money off of any game, any time, what I watch has completely changed.”
Petros’ journey into the world of sports gambling started with small head-to-head bets against his dad and friends, but has since reached the point of lengthy sessions diving daily into the latest research on betting trends and statistics. He admits that the information can be a little much, especially for someone dipping their toes into the gambling waters for the first time.
“I would say the average fan thinks that there are three sides (point spread, moneyline, over/under) to any game that you can bet on, when in reality there are usually well over a hundred ways to place money on a single game,” said Petros. “There is so much available it can be overwhelming. Should I bet the first quarter? Should I bet the first half? Should I bet the over in the first half or possibly a spread? Maybe you don’t like the game at all and would rather just look at player props. It’s all there to be considered.”
Adding to the intimidating vastness of the gambling world is the sheer number of sports available to bet on. For example, Petros admits to betting on a table-tennis match, just because it was on his site and he knows the rush a live bet can create, regardless of the sport.
“Thrill chasing would be the perfect way to describe it,” he said. “I’m doing nothing, I finish a nice dinner with my wife, I open my sportsbook and there is a live table tennis match that I can wager on, getting plus money in the fifth set of the quarterfinals. Who says no?”
Sound like foolishness to you? Well, you’re more alone than you used to be. A report done by the Canadian Gaming Association (CGA) in 2019 estimates that single-game sports betting is a $14-billion industry in Canada.
Dalton Reid, 23, is a contributor to that $14 billion, and like Petros, he also admits to having his bets shape what he actually sits down to watch.
“I’m a big hockey fan, but my fandom kind of stops and starts with the [Toronto] Maple Leafs,” said the Newfoundland native. “They are probably the only team I will watch if there are no financial implications on the line. But if I have a parlay and on the last leg I’m waiting for some west-coast team like the [Anaheim] Ducks to go under, I will surely stay up and watch.”
But what excites him more, a Leafs win or a parlay win? Reid says it all comes down to what stage Toronto is playing at.
“I will put it to scale,” stated Reid. “A Leafs’ regular-season win doesn’t mean much compared to a big parlay win. But a Leafs’ Stanley Cup, I don’t know if I could put a price on that – it would be high.”
It is an exciting time to be a Canadian sports bettor like Reid and Petros, as in mid-February, Bill C-218, which aimed to make betting on single-game sporting events legal in Canada, passed its second reading in the House of Commons.
Currently, provinces and territories see no tax money through offshore sites such as Bodog or Bet365, the most popular among Canadians, and obviously none through illegal sportsbooks. The passing of Bill C-218 could be a big step for sports and recreation organizations in the country, especially with many predicting the world of sports gambling to really pick up steam in the coming years.
Count both Reid and Petros in the “sports betting is the future” camp.
“It keeps the viewers engaged and as long as it’s done safely and properly, and the leagues and organizations promote good behaviour and keep it fun, I think it’s definitely the way they should go,” said Reid. “I also think it could be huge for leagues that might be struggling, to really embrace it.”
Petros echoes Reid’s statement, adding that gambling will help leagues because it gives a lot of power to the consumer.
“It started with fantasy sports and I think sports gambling itself has completed the gamification of sports altogether,” said Petros. “Now, it doesn’t matter if the game is for all the marbles or an exhibition, you can set the stakes for yourself. Be it a blowout, people can still be invested in the game because we as fans can literally bet play-by-play, pitch-by-pitch.”
Petros and Reid are just two of the many who now watch sports through a different lens than they used to. And with governments slowly starting to come on board to the potential of the sports gambling universe, it’s a pretty safe bet that they won’t be the last.