Fresh Old Ideas

By Arnold Malone

On Saturday evenings during the winter months of the 1940s the farm chores were done with haste. The animals needed to be bedded, dairy cows milked and the feeder stock fed. Once the milk was separated in to cream and cooled in an old well, we young ones could come in for an early supper. It was Saturday and that meant it was Hockey Night In Canada.

The radio with its A, B and C batteries was rationed. However, Hockey Night was special. There was great excitement when Foster Hewitt’s voice rang into our kitchen with the words, “Good evening hockey fans across Canada, the United States and Newfoundland it is Hocky Night In Canada.”

It was pure hockey.

Fast forward to the sports world of today and it is clear that much has changed. Sport is now about big money. Real big money. One of the great benefactors of hockey wealth is no other than NHL commissioner Gary Bettman with a career total, calculated into today’s dollars, at over 200 million.

The top ranked baseball player, Shohei Ohtani, playing for the Los Angeles Angels pulls in a whopping $65 million per year in salary and endorsements.

One might conclude that the billionaires who own the sports franchises and the players who earn those exaggerated salaries well above an average worker might be delightfully satisfied with their life. Yet, the sports world is hungry to squeeze more money out of her supporting fans.

Most recently there has been a surge in sports betting schemes. Advertised by some as the “game within the game.” A chance to test your predictions and change your life.

In just one province, Ontario, there are 31 sports betting agencies. One fact that we know with certainty is that the “house” – the agency that operates the betting activity – is richly profitable. One more time sport becomes a vortex for sucking money from the masses.

Sport is about the game. In the betting world your interest is divided between the sport and the hope that your bet might gift you with a reward. If the bet becomes the focus, then sport is diminished. 

The problem isn’t so much gambling as it is the ads asking us to gamble. There is a constant invitation to go beyond the sport. The claim is, there is more fun to be had. The truth is some agency has decided there is more money to be extracted. 

If gambling is a person’s desire, then put on a coat and drive to a casino or an outlet that provides for gambling. But surely, the high rollers don’t need to be the uninvited intruders inside our home. Sport is about the excellence of our physical and mental being. It is a test of our speed, strength and endurance. We need not be tempted by some agencies’ thirst for money. 

There are 365 days in a year and one betting site, Bet365 hopes that you will gamble every one of them.

It is difficult today to watch a sports program and not be asked to gamble. The UK, Spain, Poland, Italy, Belgium, and the Netherlands have all regulated sports betting. Statistics Canada indicates that there are 19.3 million online gamblers in Canada. Of the world’s 193 countries Canada ranks eighth for the highest rate per capita of money spent through online gambling.

Lower income families tend to spend less on gambling but those who do are more likely to end up addicted to it. 

Let’s leave our living rooms for our families to manage without the pressure that rare luck might fall upon us.  You have more chance of being struck by lightning than by winning a bet. May we soon return to the purity of sport.