Whether you’re a die-hard or simply a casual fan turning in for the playoffs, we’re sure you have noticed something different about this year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs. That thing is the overwhelming presence of sports betting advertisements for different sports betting sites.
Every other commercial contains a celebrity trying to convince you to bet with them. Pre and postgame shows are sponsored by sportsbooks. Independent podcasts, blogs, and news sites are also funded by sportsbooks in Canada.
Let’s take a look at why these ads are so common and what we expect the future of sportsbook advertising to look like.
- Since April 2022, the Canadian sports betting market has become extremely profitable
- Sports betting ads can create new addicts by introducing young people to sports betting through flashy celebrity advertisements.
- AGCO is taking aim at celebrity endorsements with a proposed ban on celebrities in ads.
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How did we get here?
Canada legalised single game sports betting about two years ago. This move freed up provinces to create their own regulations and sports betting markets. Ontario was among the first provinces to do so.
Ontario established iGaming Ontario to regulate online gambling alongside the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO). These agencies formally opened up Ontario’s sports betting market in April of 2022.
Since April 2022, the Canadian sports betting market has become extremely profitable. According to a report released from iGaming Ontario, Ontario is already the fifth biggest online gambling market in North America after just one year of legalisation.
iGaming Ontario claims online gambling and sports betting brought in $1.4 billion in revenue over the past 12 months. Some estimates claim over 60% of that $1.4 billion in revenue came from sports betting alone.
Simply put, there are so many sports betting advertisements on our screens because sports betting in Canada is a big business that is consistently getting bigger. As long as there is room to grow and no government intervention, we should expect more and more advertisements to dominate Stanley Cup Playoff coverage.
Are sports betting ads good or bad?
The question of whether sports betting advertisements are good or bad really depends on who you ask.
Most people simply view sportsbook ads as an annoying part of modern sports coverage but not something they care that much about. Others don’t even notice and couldn’t care less about the sports betting ads when watching big Stanley Cup Playoff games. On the other end of the extreme, there are people who see those ads and are reminded of their gambling addictions.
Anti-sports-betting advocates tend to focus on the latter cases and how gambling addicts can be driven to relapse or spiral even lower thanks to gambling advertisements. These advocates also focus on how sports betting ads can create new addicts by introducing young people to sports betting through flashy celebrity advertisements promising big sign-up bonuses.
The flip side of this debate is people saying that sports betting ads should be treated like any other advertisement. As long as they are honest and not deceitful, they should be allowed to air.
The only people whose opinion actually matters though are people in the Canadian government and the sports leagues themselves. The government is the only one who can outright ban sports betting ads. However, leagues like the NHL, can choose not to partner with sportsbooks.
The future of sports betting ads in sports coverage
Sports betting advertisements could look a lot different next year. Right now, ads for sportsbooks are chalk full of some of hockey’s biggest stars. Wayne Gretzky and Connor McDavid are selling us BetMGM. Kevin Weekes comes to our screens courtesy of DraftKings. Outside of hockey, we see Hollywood stars like Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul telling us to bet with bet365. We could go on.
It’s not just us who’ve noticed this. AGCO is taking aim at celebrity endorsements with a proposed ban on celebrities in ads.
In a statement from earlier in April, AGCO said, “[AGCO] has identified advertising and marketing approaches that strongly appeal to persons who are under the legal gaming age through the use of celebrities and/or athletes” and that “Concern regarding the potential harmful impact on the most vulnerable population, underage persons, remains high.”
Whether this ban goes through won’t be known until later this summer. However, the proposal itself is a sign that sports betting ads like we know them today could be changing very soon in Canada.
Julian Miller is a Canadian writer and an avid sports fan. He has years of experience in the iGaming industry, having started writing while completing his university studies in Montreal, Quebec. In 2022, he graduated, and has since been working full-time in the iGaming space. He has a particular fondness for the English Premier League — though he also has plenty of experience covering football, basketball, and other sports.