Pandora ring

Pandora’s box of sports betting is open



At first it was pretty easy to ignore. An occasional mention here and there, but nothing too intrusive. “Let them have fun”, I remember thinking, completely unaware of Pandora’s box that had just been opened.

But now? It’s borderline obscene, taking over entire shows and becoming the focal point – during the action, intermissions and, most importantly, commercial breaks.

I’m talking, of course, about sports betting in this country. And a scourge that far too many people – from decorated greats such as Ron MacLean to The Great One himself, Wayne Gretzky – seem all too willing to sell their souls as they turn into powerful accomplices.

People who want to tune in to catch the Oilers vs. Flames are instead getting their heads pounded with DraftKings vs. Bet99. Rather than breaking down what a few early goals from the visiting underdogs could mean for their chances of stealing a win, we’re bombarded with talk of how it moved the money line.

“Now is the time to take a look at the Sportsnet Bets Big Board presented by DraftKings,” MacLean shamelessly slung to Elliotte Friedman on Thursday night, as Colorado and St. Louis took a break.

“Scoreless after 20. Updated lines are Blues plus-170, Avalanche minus-230. The betting market gives Colorado an implied probability of winning about 70%,” Friedman said excitedly before reading an ad for the online betting site, including an agreement that allows them “to offer two-to-one odds on any team to score a goal in every game this month” and urging viewers to “place your bets now”.

There are plenty of other segments as well, including frequent tapings with Cabral “Cabbie” Richards, which makes the whole thing feel like one big dodgy infomercial.

It’s borderline obscene, taking over entire shows and becoming the focal point & dash; during the action, intermissions and especially commercial breaks.

Howie Meeker would probably shout “stop it here!” in his creaking voice if he was still alive, ashamed of what happened to the Hockey Night in Canada telecasts where he used to educate the masses by analyzing the action with his telestrator.

The Beavertona popular Canadian parody website, published a cheeky story the other day which was headlined: Sportsnet apologizes for interrupting advertising on the game with hockey. The brief article went on to say that “viewers were forced to endure a hockey streak that featured multiple big goals, hits and saves without any pressure to waste their money on impulse.”

As always, the best comedy has a ring of truth to it. And it was just for the money. Unless you’re an inveterate bettor, I suspect this deluge causes most viewers to reach for the remote.

Individual teams also get in on the act. The Winnipeg Jets started posting pre-game odds on their social media last season, and visitors to Canada Life Center may have noticed the barcode you can now scan right on your seats. and that takes you to a betting website.

Sports betting is starting to pop up in rinks and stadiums across North America. Whether you care or not, you really can’t escape it these days.

Let’s be clear: I have absolutely no problem with sports betting. I’ve bought a lot of Sports Select tickets in my life, I try to get to Assiniboia Downs a few times every summer, I play a few fantastic leagues – hockey, baseball and football – and I’ll make friendly bets with friends and family members.

I also recognize that legalized gambling can be a game-changer for sports leagues and networks desperate to expand revenue streams – especially after two years of a crippling pandemic – and that the talking heads on television are simply doing what we told them.

At the risk of being called a hypocrite, I first cautiously nudged this development in a column I wrote 11 months ago.

There are plenty of other segments as well, including frequent tapings with Cabral “Cabbie” Richards, which makes the whole thing feel like one big dodgy infomercial.

“There is no doubt that it will not suit everyone, just like other vices such as alcohol and tobacco either. countries on the black market is insane. The fact is that these dollars are used by the provinces to fund vital public services, including health care, street repairs and, ironically, addictions programs,” I wrote. at the time.

“No one will be forced to make a bet against their will. But you can bet it will be a popular decision for sports fans who are feeling lucky – or perhaps just want to put their money where the mouths are – who no longer have to look far to get their fix.”

A private member’s bill by Conservative MP Kevin Waugh amended the Criminal Code which previously prohibited betting on single sporting events, other than horse racing.

The basic principle is to keep this money closer to home, since Canadians are already turning to foreign gambling sites, casinos and illegal bookmakers for an estimated $14 billion a year.

He quickly garnered cross-party support when he passed through the House of Commons last June, opening the door for provincial governments, which regulate gambling in Canada, to take the plunge.

Only one problem: we forgot to bring a parachute.

It’s as if we’ve completely abandoned caution and gone all-in without really thinking about the potential ramifications. You will notice that there is never a warning about playing in moderation unless you can read the smallest text at the bottom of your TV screen.

Evidence of just how problematic this can be recently appeared in a Dom Luszczyszyn’s Twitter feedwho writes about analytics for Athleticism.

Individual teams also get in on the act. The Winnipeg Jets started posting pre-game odds on their social media last season, and visitors to Canada Life Center may have noticed the barcode you can now scan right on your seats. and that takes you to a betting website.

If anyone could defy the odds and cash in, that’s a guy who makes a living crunching numbers, right? Bad.

In a lengthy thread to his 77,000 subscribers, he candidly revealed how he had gotten out of control as the losses started piling up, and he was growing increasingly desperate to get out of his self-inflicted crater.

“My sanity was at rock bottom at the end. It felt like there was no end in sight, especially when I was losing in the worst way imaginable. which was never a comfortable feeling.”

Nothing Luszczyszyn said surprised me. Addiction — whether it’s gambling, alcohol, drugs or otherwise — is real. I witnessed it daily for more than two decades as I covered crime and justice for the Free press. It seems that the pandemic has only made the situation worse.

On the other side of the coin, professional sports are harder than ever to predict, with salary caps and parity reigning supreme.

This is especially true in the NHL, where the officiating standard can change from period to period, coaches are allowed to be sleazy about player injuries, and picking winners and losers really feels like a throw dice.

It really is a dangerous game that everyone is playing. Sadly, I’d bet there’s no end in sight.

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Twitter: @mikemcintyrewpg

Mike McIntyre