Why is Wayne Gretzky telling me to gamble?

The Province of Ontario just legalized sports betting, and it’s everywhere

I truly enjoy watching the NBA playoffs. I watch as many games as possible, and not just the Raptors, although those are the only games that come with ceremonial hats and hoodies. But this year is different. At every commercial break of every single game on the nation’s sports channels, my family is inundated with advertising for gambling, promoted by the provincial government. It makes me so mad.

We are huddled around the TV cheering on Spicy P and the fellas and every few minutes a sports legend like Wayne Gretzky is trying to convince me and my teenage daughter why Bet MGM is the better way to gamble.

Although there wasn’t a lot of pomp and circumstance, the provincial government quietly ushered in legalized sports betting in Ontario. One can only assume there was a lot of money to be made, and the government wanted its fair share. Great.

It makes me very proud to know that the province in which I reside makes its money selling booze, weed, cigarettes, casinos, lottery tickets and now sports betting. I understand that we need funds for health care, education and other important areas for which the government is responsible. But still.

According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), problem gambling and addiction can lead to an array of awful outcomes, including harming mental and physical health, causing problems with family and friends, financial hardships and many more.

According to 2021 statistics, more than 200,000 Canadians have problem gambling habits, and the most serious gambling addicts in Canada lose up to $500,000 per year.

The percentage of problem gamblers in Canada has actually been on the decline, notably between 2002 and 2018. But will that continue to be the case now that we are being encouraged to start betting on sports?

I supported the move to legalize cannabis as a way to clean it up and get people safe products to consume if that’s their bag. But I don’t see advertisements for edibles every five minutes when I’m trying to watch a basketball game.

Maybe the Province of Ontario is in a financial hole? The Conservatives are spending a great deal more than their predecessors, according to a recent study by the Fraser Institute.

So is this the answer: sports betting? I repeat, it makes me angry to think that my kid will be exposed to this every time we watch a game together.

Oh, and Sportsnet, you don’t have to say yes.