Should the ‘Marriage’ of Pro Sports and Betting Be Legalized When the Gambling Industry is a Closed Society?

What does the future hold if gambling and pro sports merge, when the gambling industry for decades has been off limits to public scrutiny? Will it mean game-fixing? What else? Now is the time to ask, before things get any further along. But don't expect big media to ask.

EDITORIAL / NEWS ANALYSIS By AWN Staff

A game-changing issue that the big-box media are unlikely to address is the long-term consequences of the involvement of betting in professional sports in Canada.

Could this trend end up being a relatively harmless addition to the gaming-sporting world, or will the illicit aspects of gambling infect professional sports with the “virus” of fixed games and a distrust of publicity?

What do we mean by distrust of publicity?

Gambling establishments generally avoid the media altogether in terms of the media reporting “hard news” on gambling. True, newspapers, television and other information mediums are awash with advertisements on lottery tickets and where to go to play the slots, card games etc.

However, when’s the last time you heard about verbal and physical abuses of casino workers by unruly customers, or that someone arrested for embezzling or another type of theft, or perhaps for drunk driving or selling drugs, did the crime due to their gambling debts?

The short answer is that you won’t hear about the connection between crime and gambling, except in rare, large-scale cases that are too big to cover up.

Moreover, Awakening News (AWN) associate editor John Devine (a former casino dealer) can testify to when Casino Rama near Orillia, Ontario first opened and two casino workers who merely had a casual conversation with reporters were immediately fired. Reporters were fully expected to be there for the casino’s grand opening, so it was certainly not a case where “disgruntled workers” secretly met with reporters in the “back room” to divulge “sensitive details.”

And about 12 years after the above-mentioned employees were fired, Devine discovered that casino employees could and would be fired for attempting to blow the whistle on possible criminal wrongdoings (obstruction of justice, obstruction of labour law enforcement) as well as possible constitutional issues within Casino Rama in this case. Penn National, an American company that managed Casino Rama at the time, was given free reign to decide if and when police would get involved in any “incidents” that happened at the casino.

Details can be found in the “20 years of Obstruction” background piece that is among the links under the banner at AWN’s website.

So, what will the policy be regarding protecting media be when professional sports joins forces with the gambling/bookie sector? Sports and news journalists are currently valued and protected under the roof of professional sports, but we wonder what may happen if sports becomes more of a gambling enterprise than is the case today.

Accordingly, we should know more details about Canada’s already growing gambling enterprises (e.g., Woodbine, Pickering etc.), especially when money laundering through British Columbia casinos, carried out by Asian crime syndicates, couldn’t help but make the news.

And, yet, Canada’s regular media got strangely silent when AWN took the lead in asking the media whether casinos in Ontario—which is Canada’s most populous province—also could be targeted by money launderers.

Try this on for size. Something as simple as requiring all casinos to periodically publish data on “money in, money out,” to prove they’re paying out enough in winnings compared to how much money is coming in from mostly cash-strapped gamblers, is a good “watchdog” idea that the government and media could advocate to protect the public from predatory gambling.

But it’s probably never going to happen. Truth be told, an extremely tight lid is kept on all aspects of gambling. Gambling is open for business, but it’s a closed society. Place your bets but don’t look behind the curtain.

It’s on that basis that Canadians should be asking themselves whether merging heavy betting with professional sports is really such a good idea.

BETTING STATUS: U.S. WAY AHEAD OF CANADA

“Last May,” according Taylor Smith, writing for GamblingSites.org on June 24, 2019, “the United States Supreme Court made a landmark decision by striking down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA). The decision effectively killed the United States’ federal ban on sports betting, which cleared the way for state legislatures to decide individually whether they wanted to legalize and regulate sports betting.”

Smith added: “Since the decision, a number of states, including New Jersey, have opened betting on sports to the public. The industry is among the fastest-growing in the United States, and more states are expected to follow suit in the months and years ahead.”

Meanwhile, this kind of betting is still banned in Canada—and that’s why AWN is bringing this matter forward now.

Our goal is to try and break the regular news media’s silence on the deeper potential consequences of marrying betting with professional sports and help get the conversation going so the already-damaged democratic process can get a chance to work.

Smith (notice that she writes for a gambling-based website and not for the regular news media) also noted that the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision might eventually help convince Canada’s lawmakers to open their doors to sports betting in Canada.

“Back in March, the Toronto Sun reported that Ontario’s Finance Minister, Vic Fedeli, had sent a letter to Canada’s federal Finance Minister, Bill Morneau. In the letter, Fedeli asked Morneau to amend the country’s criminal code in order to legalize single-game sports betting in Ontario,” Smith explained. “There is still no word on whether Morneau plans to act on Fedeli’s request, but the fact that the conversation of whether to legalize sports betting in Canada is happening is at least a step in the right direction.”

Currently, very limited sports betting is permitted in Ontario. The only betting platform is Pro-Line, a government-supported service that allows gamblers to bet on a minimum of three selections. Like a parlay bet, all three results have to be correct to win.

THE BIG PICTURE

Yet, if Canada’s already nearly unlimited acceptance of widespread gambling is any indication, the expansion of gambling into professional sports likely will happen well beyond the Pro-Line platform.

And that would mean another layer of gambling being established before key issues of obstruction raised by AWN have been investigated. Again, many of those issues are outlined in our special report called “20 Years of Obstruction.” Click this link to read it.

Generally speaking, the special report covers efforts by AWN staffers (during previous employment) to blow the whistle on casino-related verbal and physical (including sexual) abuses of employees, on apparent abridgements of free speech, on unsafe working conditions, and about allegedly covering up what appeared to be illicit and illegal operations within the walls of Casino Rama, for instance.

These efforts to get the facts out and encourage investigations were ignored by the conventional media and ignored by police agencies and the Ministry of Labour, despite AWN’s best efforts to raise these issues. We wrote to politicians; we wrote to editors; we wrote to various police agencies. We encountered either silence or were told “not our jurisdiction.”

And because such matters have been ignored for so long, the casino problems we’re talking about have been allowed to fester and worsen. And since the voters, before and after elections, aren’t hearing much, if anything, about these concerns, the question of whether to expand gambling even more, such as betting on sports games, will probably not be carefully explored.

This of course begs the question: Have the professional sports franchises operating in Ontario vetted their “bookie-in-waiting” (the OLG, a government agency) to the point that they know about any or all of these obstruction issues? And will we, as a society, realize that obstructing free speech and muzzling whistleblowers—because it prevents vital information from reaching voters and lawmakers—is basically the same thing as obstructing justice and eroding democracy?

One would think such issues should be raised on the floor of the Ontario Legislature with a public inquiry to follow. And one would also hope that, after a thorough debate, the current policy of advertising of a monopoly (gambling) should be stopped or at least reduced.

Is it a good idea to maintain the big-box media’s bank accounts by way of advertising from a gambling industry that’s hostile to objective news inquiries about all aspects of the industry? The question almost answers itself.