Sports are a key component of our culture throughout Canada. Collectively as Canadians we are proud to observe the tradition of “Hockey Night in Canada” and take pride in having one of our Canadian stereotypes be known as a nation where everyone loves hockey. We recognize that sporting events bring people together and allow us to identify and relate to others and take on an air of friendly competition amongst friends and family when rooting for our favorite team. However, with this high level of fandom and the thrill of competition flowing through many individuals we see great interest in turning friendly bets with friends and family into competitive bets on a broader scale.
How Sports and Gambling Benefit One Another
The inception of esports has been relatively new to the world of gambling and has been an influential step for both the gambling industry and professional sports teams. By tapping into the fandom culture observed in sports the gambling industry has grown significantly and has had many benefits from sports partnerships in betting, and vice versa. We are beginning to see the emergence of greater numbers of teams playing, greater numbers of teams eligible for playoffs, new leagues, and longer seasons across many areas of the sports industry. This expanding model of sports leads to greater accessibility and gives fans of many teams the opportunity to bet on their team or player of choice as never before, increasing exposure for the sports and gaming industries simultaneously.
Observed Trends in Sports Betting
Canada currently engages in regulated sports betting in a system known as “parlay betting” which is a type of multi-event wager where winning may be contingent on several factors working together in order to win. This form of betting may serve to reduce a bettor’s risk slightly while preserving the integrity of the game. While parlay betting is the legalized form of sports betting in Canada, many still engage in the legal grey-area that is offshore single-event sports betting. With the advent of online sports betting we are seeing new and somewhat alarming trends emerging among the model of betting as well as increased risk factors for bettors. For instance, the inception of micro-betting in sports which has been hailed as a real-time betting alternative to traditional models of sports betting. Historically, an individual has never had such control over these minute actions or the ability to alter their betting strategy midgame as they do now. These micro-bets allow an individual to make moment-by-moment wagers in real-time as they observe the game. While this may allow for an individual to utilize skill of some sort it has been criticised as it prevents the player from making thoughtful, analytical decisions about their bets in favour of more impulsive ones. Some games that exhibit many breaks, such as football, may encourage even more micro-bets as game plays change as often as every thirty seconds. It has been found that the majority of the revenue from online sports betting comes from these micro-bets which raises concerns over the frequency of which an individual is making bets and how this method promotes unrestricted betting on a single game.
There has been a recent criticism that daily sports betting may play into gambler’s fallacy by reinforcing an individual’s perception that they have some element of control over the game and that their skills can be exercised like that of a team manager or coach with every bet. This perception is very concerning and we have seen the emergence of more athletes engaging in sports betting as they believe their perceived knowledge and skill of certain games may be to their advantage in betting scenarios.
Characteristics of Sports Bettors
As for the characteristics of the sports-bettor, we see similar trends to that of casual, general gamblers and gamers, however, we are seeing slightly different demographics across casual sports-bettors and their online sports-betting counterparts. Those that engage in casual sports betting are predominantly male, single, and financially independent, and nearly half attribute peer influence to their willingness to engage in bets. We may draw similar comparisons to online sports-bettors as the demographic is also overwhelmingly male, however, we see key differences in that those that engage in online sports betting are often professional young men with families.
Age is one of the most important contributing factors that should be noted when identifying the characteristics of a sports bettor that exhibits problem gambling. It has been shown that the average age of a PG sports bettor is ten years younger than those that only gamble casually. It has also been studied and observed that rates of problem gambling between those who exclusively engage in sports betting compared to those who do not are much different. Sports-specific bettors have problem gambling rates ranging from 27-35%, while typical rates of problem gambling across all fields is around 3-4%. While it is speculated exactly what about sports-specific gambling may contribute to the higher rates of problem gambling, there are certain factors may be known to increase it. It may be the impulsivity found in micro-bets, the vast numbers of outcomes and “proposition” bets one may make, or the sports fandom itself that contributes to greater risky decision making.
Legality in Canada
All of this recent information on sports betting comes at a significant time as we have just seen a proposition in Saskatchewan to legalize daily sports betting. While the majority of daily sports betting in Canada occurs through offshore sources, the subject of legalizing these wagers to gain back some monetary control over the revenue has come up. It is estimated that roughly $10 billion in single-event gambling revenue is lost overseas each year and the new proposition in SK aims to tax and invest this money back into Canadian communities. While this would be beneficial for Canadian communities, the discussion of addiction may also be considered when invoking new regulations on gambling. The fast-paced nature and competitive aspect of sports betting may be a trigger for those with problematic gambling tendencies and may serve as the influence to engage with esports betting more frequently.
Because sports are so ingrained in our culture and allow us to exhibit hometown or national patriotism there is no end in sight for betting on sports. What we can do to mitigate some of these behaviours, however, is find ways to analyze the scope of our sports betting, online or otherwise and find ways to reduce the harm in our personal lives. We can examine the influence that substances have on our willingness to bet, influence from our peer groups, or whether we engage in these behaviours online in an isolated fashion. By making small changes and being aware of our own actions and influences we are able to exhibit more control over our gambling behaviours and engage in gambling in a safe way.
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