Survey finds majority of Canadians want stricter limits on sports betting ads

Older demographics more likely to oppose sports wagering

A new survey suggests that seven in 10 Canadians want sports betting adverts to exclude current team players and celebrities and would support a ban on those ads during live sports games or events but the sentiment towards the industry varies significantly by age group.

A public opinion poll conducted by market research platform Maru found that 68% of Canadians surveyed want current players and celebrities banned from betting ads and 66% think that sports betting commercials should not be allowed during live sports.

In addition, six in 10 (59%) said that they believe a nationwide ban on sports betting ads should be implemented right away.

When asked for their reasoning for supporting such measures, three-quarters (75%) of the survey respondents cited a need to protect youth and children from sports betting marketing and almost as many (72%) voiced concern that young adults will fall into significant debt due to online sports betting.

Other findings included that:

  • 62% of respondents believe sports betting owners are not acting responsibly with their ads and marketing
  • 53% believe sports betting needs more government oversight and regulation than currently exist
  • 17% of Canadians have wagered money on an online betting platform for a professional sporting event/game, rising to 33% for young Canadians

The Maru survey was conducted between Feb. 7 and 8, 2024 and surveyed a random selection of 1,534 Canadian adults who are Maru Voice Canada panelists. The probability sample of this size has an estimated margin of error of 2.5%, 19 times out of 20.

Age matters

What is particularly noticeable from the results is that it is the older age groups, those who partake in gambling less than younger age groups, who have the most negative perception of betting.

Almost every single one of the categories listed above had the highest percentage of support among respondents aged 55 or older. The exception was that the 55+ age group has the lowest proportion of people who have actually placed an online bet, with just one in 20 (5%) having done so. In comparison, one-third (33%) of respondents aged 18-34 have placed an online bet on live sports, and that age group has the most positive perception of online sports betting as a hobby.

Some of the differences are striking. For example, while three-quarters (76%) of respondents aged 55+ said sports betting operators are not responsible with their marketing, only around four in 10 (43%) of 18-to-34-year-olds said the same thing. There’s a similarly wide gap when it comes to the question of whether sports betting in Canada needs more government oversight and regulation than presently exist. Nearly two-thirds (63%) of respondents 55 and older said yes, compared to just 41% of adults younger than 35.

All in all, it’s apparent within the parameters of this survey that online sports betting and its advertising is opposed far more by older demographics, who aren’t generally the primary target demographic for operators, than by the younger generations.

A tricky time for sports and betting

The survey’s findings come at a time of high publicity for sports betting.

The scrutiny of the relationship between gambling, advertising, and sports has increased in recent months with a serious of high-profile incidents and campaigns hitting headlines.

The case of Shohei Ohtani’s interpreter has made the biggest splash while athletes at both the pro level, such as the Toronto Raptors’ Jontay Porter, and the college level, including the Temple men’s basketball team, are being investigated for allegedly playing some role in illegal betting activity.

Meanwhile, the president of the NCAA college sports association Charlie Baker is campaigning for prop betting on college sports to be banned across all North American jurisdictions, citing the negative impacts on young athletes’ mental health that he fears individual performance-based bets can cause.

CAMH adds voice to calls

On the topic of mental health, Canada’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) believes that the Ontario government should protect public health by restricting sports betting ads, adding its voice to the increasing cacophony of similar calls in North America.

In its latest Gambling Policy Framework document, CAMH called on the government to limit the availability of games, introduce mandatory safeguards and strengthen gambling harm education and prevention.

In particular, it urged Ontario to reduce exposure to gambling content to shield the public from harm, stressing that marketing should not encourage non-gamblers to play and criticizing the proliferation of gambling ads in sports. It also proposes that gambling ads should not appear in media and venues where minors can reasonably be expected to make up over a quarter of the audience.

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