Player Health

Offense or Defense: What's the Responsible Gambling Game Plan in the Sports Betting Playbook?



With increasing demand from Canadians for legalized single-event sports betting and new proposed legislation that could make it a reality, change could be on the horizon for sports betting in Canada. But if single-event sports betting is legalized, what’s the responsible gambling game plan? 

That question was tackled in last month’s New Horizons in Responsible Gambling pre-conference session hosted by BCLC. 

“What we’re witnessing is a cultural shift with respect to sports betting and now professional sports leagues are getting involved,” said BCLC’s eGaming Director of Operations Stewart Groumoutis, as he kicked off the panel with an overview of Canada’s current sports-betting landscape, and where it could be headed.

“We’re already seeing media outlets integrating with major gambling platforms, offering up live-betting lines during games. What we have right now in Canada are sports bets which require a multiple number of bets, and casual fans don’t always see that as an appealing opportunity.

With single-events, BCLC along with other provinces and territories would be able to expand across not just their online- and land-based channels, but a significant distribution of sports betting which would also appeal to those casual bettors.”

With sports betting already rising in popularity, and the potential for increased engagement among casual bettors, session panelist Christine Thurmond, Director of Responsible Gambling at DraftKings, shared that Canadian provinces can best prepare for this massive transformation through increased investment in player education.

“I think when it comes to the responsible gambling game plan, the best defense is a good offense,” said Thurmond. “What we’ve learned at DraftKings is that information and resources tend to be the most valuable thing we can offer our players…We follow the rule of making sure our players know how to play the games and that they are able to take advantage of the responsible gambling tools we offer.”

There are still hurdles to clear between now and the potential legalization of single-event sports betting. It’s a sharp contrast between what happened in the United States, where the Supreme Court struck down the ban on sports betting. Session panelist Chris Grove, Gambling Industry Strategist and Partner at Eilers & Krejcik Gaming, delved into the United States’ fast-tracked path towards expanded sports-betting offerings. 

“It was certainty the most rapid expansion of any kind of legal gambling in my time,” said Grove. “Whereas usually this is something that happens incrementally, the fact you have 20-plus states in the U.S. now offering legalized sports betting, that is a dramatic expansion. With that expansion comes some aspects that can be less than optimal.”

Grove also noted that Canada can learn some lessons from the U.S.

“In Canada, we have the opportunity to get it right from the start. One thing that would be interesting is data collection for operators; getting them to report more about the marketing channels they are using for player acquisition. It would give a better picture about the players who are being acquired and allow the operators to get a sense of the guard rails you can put in place to protect those new players.”

Groumoutis added that whatever course of action follows with Canada’s potential path towards legalized single-event sports betting, operators should take a proactive approach with both existing and new players.

“It’s important to provide players with the knowledge and a robust play experience so they can set guard rails accordingly.”

BCLC supports the proposed legislation to legalize single-event sports betting and is urging Ottawa to pass either Bill C-218 or Bill C-13 to allow Canadians to make single-event sports bets.

Hosted by BCLC, the 9th annual New Horizons in Responsible Gambling Conference occurs virtually from March 9-10, 2021, and will bring together hundreds of industry-leading researchers, policy makers and representatives from around the world to tackle some of the most challenging topics related to gambling and player health.