The iGaming landscape is quickly changing in Canada as Ontario prepares for the launch of its regulated market on April 4, and that’s leaving one U.S. problem gambling director, in particular, deeply concerned about the ramifications on bettors and their families north of the border.
Keith Whyte, the executive director at the National Council on Problem Gambling, spoke about what Canadians might expect soon in a keynote presentation during last week’s New Horizons in Responsible Gambling Conference, hosted by the British Columbia Lottery Corporation. He is longtime head of the nonprofit organization focused on promoting education and treatment around responsible gambling issues.
“You ain’t seen nothing yet!” White exclaimed, discussing what to expect as new sportsbook operators launch. “What we’re experiencing right now in the United States, and what you’re about to experience in British Columbia and across Canada, is an absolute tsunami of gambling advertising.”
To make his point, he used a slideshow to display advertising data from a recent Detroit Pistons TV broadcast that featured nearly a dozen ads from regulated U.S. sportsbooks — including five from FanDuel — throughout the game. He then noted an abundance of other sports betting advertising running concurrently in the forms of in-arena advertising, social media, and radio. It’s the type of bombardment that is also beginning in Canada.
According to Canadian media analyst Adam Seaborn, over 28 different “gambling” advertisers, most of them offshore and non-regulated, appeared on TV in Canada last year spending upward of $100 million (CAD). That number will soar in 2022 with the launch of Ontario’s regulated market, and potentially more provinces adopting an open market model. A recent study by Deloitte Canada revealed most Canadians are still uninformed about sports betting, as legal online wagering just launched in Canada last August,
Whyte’s data indicated 25 million U.S. residents went from never gambling online in 2018 to actively betting online by 2021, as more and more states legalized sports betting. A survey conducted by the NCPG in 2018 revealed problematic play was especially prevalent among two at-risk groups: sports bettors, including those who play daily fantasy sports, and younger gamblers ages 18 to 44.
— NCPG (@NCPGambling) March 1, 2022
In-play betting is ‘Frankenstein’s monster’
The sports betting advertising boom isn’t the only growing concern tied to problem gambling in North America. One of the consequences of a shift to online gaming and sports betting is that in-play betting is more convenient than ever, making it a likely source of more instances of problem gambling.
“It’s actually Frankenstein’s monster,” Whyte said. “In-play betting, close advanced data, plus advertising and accessibility, and everything else. You will soon be able to bet on every action, by every player, on every game, continuously under one click once you have an account. So what this looks like is anything that can be measured — not just outcome of a play, but even performance within a play — can and will be monetized.”
In Europe, roughly 80% of the sports betting is now in-play wagering, Whyte said. From a clinical treatment perspective, that makes sports bettors not that much different from casino slot players.
“The shift towards in-play betting, the impact of mobile technology, the impact of digital payments, is going to mean the problems with sports betting will continue to rise,” Whyte asserted.
However, Whyte sees sports betting potentially maxing out its reach in the United States in roughly 10 years. That doesn’t mean that instances of problem gambling will decline, though.
“I do think in 2032 we won’t be talking about [sports betting] as much because I don’t think it can really go past 25 percent to 30 percent of the population,” he said. “With in-play betting, there’s no skill involved anymore. Completely random. It’s fast twitch. Every couple of segments have nothing really to do with with scale at all. And I think there’s much higher risk there.”
BCLC’s innovative GameSense program
British Columbia’s industry-leading answer to responsible gambling is the GameSense program. Launched in 2009 by BCLC, GameSense is designed to help players make informed gambling decisions and improve player trust, awareness, and education using research-based guidelines and best practices. The program is licensed in 14 gambling organizations across North America and has earned international recognition from the World Lottery Association, the NCPG, and the North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries.
GameSense is used in the provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba in addition to British Columbia. Its practices have also been adopted in Connecticut and Massachusetts and by MGM Resorts International. The program has four cornerstones: the making of informed decisions, positive play, processes focused on referral and followup support, and an overall focus on safer products and play environments in general.
GameSense advisors are accessible on gaming floors in casinos and by phone or through online chat. They’re armed with a variety of resources and focus on educating bettors on how games work, odds and probability of winning, and the importance of taking regular breaks. The approach is less clinical and more conversational, designed to reduce stigma and make potential problem gamblers feel more comfortable about discussing their issues. Advisors can, if needed, provide referrals to free gambling outreach support offered by the province of British Columbia.
Using data from the Canadian Community Heath Survey (CCHS), it has been estimated that 2% of Canadians 15 years and older have gambling problems.