Ontario Senator talks sports betting and its implications

Marty Deacon, member of the Senate of Canada representing the Waterloo region in Ontario, has live-streamed an almost hour-long discussion on the “absolute increase” in sports betting advertising.

Titled “Sports Betting and the Implications for our Sports Systems”, the conversation featured inputs from Professor Emeritus, Sport & Public Policy at the University of Toronto Bruce Kidd, Senator Brent Cotter, Canadian Parks and Recreation CEO Martin Sampson, and Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport CEO and President Jeremy Luke.

One of the purposes of the live stream was to explain the rationale and drum up support for Senator Deacon’s bill S-269, which she introduced into the Senate of Canada on June 20, 2023. 

The legislation intended to introduce a national framework to regulate sports betting advertising, including the usage of celebrities in commercials. The bill received a second reading and was debated on November 9, 2023. No further action has been taken. Deacon commented on the need to regulate advertising, saying: “Canadians across the country, all ages, from coast to coast to coast, are bombarded with advertisements to place bets”. 

Bill S-269 aims to create a legal framework for sports betting advertising based on three key components. The first is stricter regulations on the advertising itself, including restricting the locations where these commercials can be shown and preventing athletes and celebrities from being involved in advertising. The other two relate less to advertising but intend to set up measures to protect minors from gambling and help with gambling addiction treatment. 

As Senator Deacon noted during the live stream, she voted in favour of bill C-218, which allowed Canadian provinces to legalize and regulate sports betting. So far, Ontario is the only Canadian province to launch sports betting, going live on April 4, 2022. 

Deacon highlighted the need to address “black market, illegal, single sports betting” as her motivation for supporting the legislation. However, she commented: “We did not get C-218 right, and we could do better”.

The involvement of celebrities in advertising and how this impacts young people was mentioned several times, with Martin Sampson saying, “these things are so obviously targeted at young minds”. He also noted that “the constant stream of it [sports betting advertising] normalizes gambling”, which S-269 intends to reduce.

Senator Brent Cotter mentioned how Canada has been “very aggressive” in regulating advertising for cannabis, tobacco, and alcohol and how sports betting “fits into the same category”.

Commenting on “the risks that our athletes face from being bet upon”, Jeremy Luke commented that athletes could be “groomed, they can be coerced, and they can be tempted” into influencing event outcomes. 

Reducing sports betting advertising would be one of several “harm reduction strategies” to reduce the risks for athletes. Bruce Kidd agreed, saying it is a “safe sports issue”.

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