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CBC In-Depth Probe Into Canada Sports Betting Ads Similar to That of NYT it Appears

Written by:
Alejandro Botticelli
Published on:
Jan/12/2023

Like in the U.S. there's been a flood of sports betting ads in Canada, mostly Ontario.  And regulators are taking notice.

Quite a few of the ads feature high profile athletes and celebrities referred to as brand ambassadors.

The CBC's The Fifth Estate reached out to three hockey stars as part of an investigation into sports betting in Canada refused to talk about their brands.

Deals are said to be worth several million dollars.

The Fifth Estate interview requests followed a recent ban in the United Kingdom on ads featuring sports stars and other celebrities in an apparent attempt to scale back on advertising campaigns that appeal to children.

The Fifth Estate is similar to 60 Minutes in the U.S. For more than four decades The Fifth Estate has been Canada's premier investigative documentary program. Hosts Bob McKeown, Gillian Findlay, Mark Kelley and Steven D'Souza offer up fearless journalism and in-depth investigations that matter to Canadians. 

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CBC's probe comes just weeks after a similar blockbuster investigative report appeared in the New York Times.  The NYT article found that some sports betting firms specifically targetted college campuses through big money deals.

"How Colleges and Sports-Betting Companies ‘Caesarized’ Campus Life" exposed how some colleges have entered into deals with these gambling sites.

Michigan State and LSU were among the biggest beneficiaries.  Caesars had reportedly offered MSU $8.4 million over five years.  An email obtained by the NYT featured a message proclaiming this to be “the largest sportsbook deal in college athletics.”

Unlike the much ballyhooed public announcements of partnership deals between the likes of DraftKings and FanDuel and professional sports teams and leagues, the college deals appeared to be "secretive", according to the Times.

Also from the NYT:

In addition, at least a dozen athletic departments and booster clubs have signed agreements with brick-and-mortar casinos. For example, Turning Stone Resort and Casino is the official resort of Syracuse University’s ‘Cuse Athletics Fund. In 2020, Texas Christian University, in Fort Worth, joined WinStar World Casino and Resort to open a new club with suites and premium seating.

The online gambling deals have helped athletic departments recoup some of the revenue they lost during the pandemic. The partnerships bring in extra funds that schools can use to sign marquee coaches and build winning sports teams. Mr. Haller, Michigan State’s athletic director, said in a news release at the time of the Caesars deal that it would provide “significant resources to support the growing needs of each of our varsity programs.”

For its part, the NCAA remains steadfast against any type of relationship with sports betting. 

Prior to the U.S. Supreme Court abolishing decades long prohibition against the activity, a spokesperson for the NCAA featured on its website this notice: "The NCAA opposes all forms of legal and illegal sports wagering, which has the potential to undermine the integrity of sports contests and jeopardizes the welfare of student-athletes and the intercollegiate athletics community."

The NCAA was among those that sued to stop New Jersey's push to legalize sports betting, resulting in the Supreme Court ruling.

The Fifth Estate, meanwhile, has been aggressive in approaching athletes to question them about their ties to the Canadian regulated sports betting companies.

"I appreciate the question, but after all of that I don't think I'm going to get into it much, honestly," Matthews, a star centre with the Toronto Maple Leafs, told The Fifth Estate recently. 

We approached him after a practice in Toronto to ask about his relationship with Bet99, a company that offers sports bets that is operating in Ontario. On Twitter, Matthews says he's "proud" of his "partnership" and tells his fans to "stay tuned for more!"

It is not immediately known when the CBC final report will be published.

- Alejandro Botticelli, Gambling911.com Senior Reporter

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