Call for a National Strategy to Address Gambling-Related Harms in Wake of Sports Betting Boom

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OTTAWA, July 02, 2024 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Recent gambling policy changes in Canada have led to increased opportunities to legally bet on sports and gamble online, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Released today, Gambling Availability and Advertising in Canada: A Call to Action looks at the impacts of legal gambling in Canada since the approval of the Safe and Regulated Sports Betting Act in 2021. The report recommends developing a pan-Canadian strategy to address gambling-related harms. This is a new report by Greo Evidence Insights (Greo) and the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA).

This call to action is in response to the significant increase in gambling advertising on billboards, social media, at commercial breaks during sports broadcasts and during sporting events. Increased gambling availability and advertising are expected to contribute to increased gambling in Canada, thereby posing a significant risk of harms among the general population, particularly for youth, young adults and other vulnerable populations.

The report also describes how the increased availability of gambling and in gambling advertising are of great concern because:

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  • The types of gambling being made available and promoted (single-event sports betting and live or in-play betting) are associated with a greater risk of harm. For example, single-event sports betting increases gambling intensity and gives an illusion of control over the outcome as people believe their knowledge of the game gives them a competitive edge.
  • The volume of gambling advertisements repeatedly pairing sports with betting normalizes gambling, leading people to think of betting as an integral part of being a sports fan.
  • Increased availability of gambling and in gambling advertising are happening at a time when many people in Canada are more vulnerable to problematic gambling and gambling-related harms because of the lingering health impacts of COVID-19 and a rise in the cost of living.

“Over the last few years, we have witnessed some of the most significant changes in gambling policy since the 1970s,” explained Dr. Matthew Young, Chief Research Officer at Greo, Senior Research Associate at the CCSA and Adjunct Professor at Carleton University. “We have seen a massive increase in gambling advertising and opportunities to gamble. We can no longer watch sports with our kids or go online without being subjected to an overwhelming amount of gambling advertising. Canada is at a critical moment in how it manages gambling. A national strategy or framework — similar to what we have for alcohol, tobacco and cannabis — is critical to manage the expected increased in gambling harm, especially among youth and other vulnerable people.”

The report recommends developing a national strategy that will:

  • Develop national standards governing the promotion and availability of gambling;
  • Manage conflicts of interest among gambling stakeholders;
  • Address inadequate funding for gambling harm prevention and reduction initiatives and research;
  • Monitor systematic changes in gambling-related harm, including any assessments of the social and economic costs of gambling; and
  • Increase awareness of gambling-related harms among health and social service professionals and the public.

“Increased gambling among people living in Canada will undoubtebly result in increased harms and therefore increased societal costs. These include healthcare costs, criminal-justice costs, child welfare costs, increased unemployment and lost productivity costs because of gambling-related suicide,” says Dr. Pam Kent, Director of Research and Emerging Trends at CCSA. “We need to think about our approach and ensure that it considers not only short-term government revenue and economic activity but also the longer-term societal costs. That’s why we need a national strategy.”

About Greo Evidence Insights
Greo Evidence Insights is a not-for-profit research and knowledge translation organization that works internationally, primarily in fields of gambling, mental health and other related public health issues. To learn more, visit greo.ca.

About CCSA
CCSA was created by Parliament to provide national leadership to address substance use in Canada. A trusted counsel, we provide national guidance to decision makers by harnessing the power of research, curating knowledge and bringing together diverse perspectives.

CCSA activities and products are made possible through a financial contribution from Health Canada. The views of CCSA do not necessarily represent the views of Health Canada. To learn more, visit ccsa.ca.

Media contacts

Mélissa Joseph
Strategic Communications Advisor
Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction
613-235-4048 ext. 364
[email protected]

Lee Arbon
Strategic Communications Manager
Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction
613-266-5469
[email protected]

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