I never thought I would miss the beer commercials during the hockey game.
I have to say this, though: at least the I! A m! Canadian! The guy just pandered to misplaced patriotism and didn’t pester me non-stop to place a bet every time the whistle blew.
That was the defining feature of this year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs: a tsunami of gambling ads. It feels like you can’t go five minutes without remembering that you’re not having as much fun as the cool kids if you don’t drop a few bucks, or maybe the money for big man’s iron lung. mother, on an online sports book or game application.
This is when we dread seeing Connor McJesus offside, not because play is interrupted, but because it means having yet another pitch for Betrivers.ca, or Bet365, or Draftkings , or Fanduel, or whoever poked your pie hole.
This dates back to Canada’s decision to legalize single match betting last year. Provincially-owned gaming companies, such as BC Lottery Corp., have benefited, but in April Ontario also began licensing private-sector online betting sites.
This Ontario move is why your screen is suddenly flooded with these advertisements. (“It’s not just that we’re inundated with gambling ads during the hockey game,” Ian Hanomansing tweeted, “but as we watch them here in BC, they’re ads for gambling in Ontario.”)
Why last year’s change? The federal government, with backing from all four major parties, argued that Canadians were already wasting billions betting on single games, but with the money flowing to Vegas, illegal bookmakers and potentially shady foreign sites. Better to legalize it, keep the money at home.
BC Lottery Corp.’s online site. explains it thus: “Previously, the only sports bets legally permitted in Canada were those that required a ‘bet’, which meant that players had to bet on the outcome of at least two different events.
“So Canadian gamblers were betting on single-event sports on unregulated gambling websites that don’t provide jobs or revenue that benefits our provinces. As a regulated website, PlayNow.com aims to protect you, the player, whether through strict security features or safeguards and tools to promote healthy play.
The lottery company has made raking in your money a noble mission, even if it failed to get itself nominated for the Order of Canada.
The better-us-than-the-bad guys logic gives the elect a good argument, or at least a practical one. It was first used by BC politicians a century ago when they ended prohibition (and smuggling) by creating the government liquor store system we still have. today. We will use the money to build $789 million schools, hospitals and museums, they said.
The game, which lives on the shady side of Morality Street, was allowed to exist because it paid for good works. When the government entered the lottery business 40 years ago, all profits went (at least for a time) to amateur sports, recreation and culture. Before the BCLC was put in charge of running things in 2002, community groups competed to volunteer (and get money) at BC’s commercial bingo halls. (Some of us are still slightly buzzed with dauber ink.)
Politicians have long struggled with the negative side of this golden goose (so to speak). Remember that the casino that opened in View Royal in 2001 only got there after Victoria City Council voted against allowing slot machines in the town proper. The decision, which resulted in the disappearance of a small casino on Douglas Street opposite the Mayfair Shopping Centre, means that only city governments on the West Bank now get a cut in casino revenue.
It was also in 2001 that the BC Liberals were elected on a platform that included a promise to “halt the expansion of gambling that has increased gambling addiction and put new pressures on families” .
Apparently, these families were doing just fine when the Liberals took over, as the new regime grew the industry faster than Harry Homeowner dropped mortgage money on a poker table.
New Democrats today must feel the same way, as they continue to allow gambling revenue to swell government coffers by an estimated $1 billion each year. (Community non-profit groups usually get about $140 million.) What a relief. Glad these families are doing well.
But I digress. We’re supposed to be talking about the deluge of gambling ads during hockey (and basketball) games. It’s kind of strange to see the NHL, which once shunned the game like Grapes shunned grammar, now embraces it as tightly as Draisaitl hugged McDavid after the Alberta battle.
There are ads on your screen, ads in the stands, ads on the ice. Wayne Gretzky is pushing BetMGM, which on the Surprise-O-Meter ranks with Stephen Harper at Burning Man.
You (and your kids) hear the same message after every whistle: play, play, play.
I think I’ll bust a beer.