Fast & Curious: Short Takes on Random Things

You Bet

Watching a hockey game recently (I won’t identify my team, I’ll just tell you I won’t be doing any post-season viewing), I was struck by how many times the broadcaster cut away from the action to ads featuring famous athletes and Hollywood stars encouraging me to bet on sports.

I think it can only burnish my nerd credentials to tell you that I found out more about these ads not by betting on sports but by listening to an interview with VICE tech reporter Edward Ongweso Jr on Paris Marx’s Tech Won’t Save Us podcast.


(Those of you who do bet on sports can probably just skip this item, which will feature me awkwardly attempting to explain what single-game sports betting is and why it constitutes a significant change in Canada, although you might choose to stick around for pure comic relief.)

Single-game sports betting is exactly what it sounds like, the ability to bet on a single game, and it became illegal in Canada in 1985. Punters here have, instead, had to settle for betting on the outcomes of multiple games in what is known as “parlay” betting. As Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis (AGLC) explains, the restriction against single-event sports wagering was intended to:

…prevent sporting events in Canada from being fixed or otherwise illegally manipulated to create specific outcomes to financially benefit individuals or groups who had placed wagers based on these known outcomes.

AGLC notes that “several attempts” had been made to allow single-game betting in Canada, but none was successful until 27 August 2021, when the ban was lifted by the federal government and one by one, provincial governments followed suit. Our own province was actually the last to legalize single-game betting, doing so on 11 February 2022.



In case you’re wondering, single-game betting wasn’t legalized because fears of game-fixing suddenly evaporated but because legalized sports betting had been spreading like wildfire across the United States since 2018, when the Supreme Court struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) which, according to Forbes, “had effectively made sports betting illegal except in Nevada and a few other states.”

The ban gone, states were allowed to legalize sports betting and as of January this year, 30 had done so, including 18 that allow online wagering.

It is BIG business, as just one example will show. New York State approved legalized online sports betting on January 8, just in time for this year’s Super Bowl, and according to the New York Post, residents bet $472.1 million on the game. The state takes 51% of gross revenues generated by its seven, licensed mobile gambling vendors and expects to earn $249 million from taxes on gambling revenues in 2002.

And while I said earlier that the only option for Canadians was parlay betting, I should have specified that the only legal option was parlay betting because, of course, many Canadians just accessed those online US (and European) sites, as the AGLC notes:

Research conducted over summer 2020 indicated that Albertans spend an estimated $53 million annually on offshore sports gambling websites. Additionally, Albertans spend an estimated $49 million annually on daily fantasy sports (DFS) at offshore sites, such as DraftKings and FanDuel.

Closer to home, Greg Weston of the Atlantic Lottery Corporation, which now offers a single-event betting product called Pro-Line in all four Atlantic Provinces, estimated the region was losing $100 million a year to ” gray- and black-market operators.”



I don’t have time to get into any of this as deeply as I would like to, but there are a couple of points I really want to touch on, however briefly, after which you can simply check out my sources for more in-depth takes on this issue.

One of the distinctive features of this betting frenzy is that it has the support of major North American sports leagues who, in the past, might have viewed betting as a threat to the integrity of their games. Now, hard hit by COVID, they are looking to cash in on the phenomenon — like European football clubs are already doing. Nine of 20 teams in the English Premier League and 17 of the 24 Championship teams have betting company logos on their jerseys.

Major League Baseball expanded its partnership with the betting company DraftKings in 2021:

Among the key components of the expanded relationship are rights to an innovative “Bet & Watch” streaming integration where fans with open and active and DraftKings accounts will be able to watch a free, live MLB game within the DraftKings app. In addition, DraftKings and MLB plan to collaborate on future sports betting-themed game broadcast experiences that will live within the MLB.TV product.

The NHL’s introduction “smart pucks” has a gambling angle — the information provided by the pucks, equipped with sensors that will send “about 60 pieces of information about the puck and at least 10 for each player” every second, thousands of data points per game, will be used by teams to analyze play and by media to improve viewer “experience” but coming soon, according to the Associated Press, will be “iPad experiences integrated with social media and gambling, where odds are available in real time for live betting.”

Here’s NHL senior vice president of business development and global partnerships David Lehanski explaining the league’s strategy to “improve” sports betting in hockey:

Without using the term, Lehanski explains the concept of the “micro-bet,” a type of wagering that becomes possible when you have thousands of data points to crunch and can assign probabilities to just about anything. Says Lehanski:

We’ve seen that some of the biggest growth in betting is from in-play betting, so bets that fans now want to place during the game, while they’re watching, as opposed to prior to the game.

Edward Ongweso Jr sees the expansion of sports betting as part of a general encroachment of gambling into our lives, writing in VICE:

From financial fads like SPACs—shell companies that take companies public through reverse mergers—to cryptocurrencies, online casinos streamed by megastars on Twitch, the housing market, and more, it appears as though gambling is expanding into nearly every nook and cranny of society. All of this activity has had real, and very often negative, effects on people who get caught up. 

Because the house — whether actual or virtual — always wins.



My story about the Highland Arts Theatre’s (HAT) proposed expansion has landed me in a spot of bother.

I wrote about it based on the presentation, which had been included in the agenda for this week’s council meeting, but the presentation didn’t actually take place. I checked with the municipal clerk to find out why and was told it had been postponed for no given reason, hence my rather flippant reference to Wesley Colford, the theater’s executive and artistic director, not showing.

I was told later (by Mayor Amanda McDougall) that the presentation had been postponed at the request of council. And this morning I heard from Colford, who (politely) expressed dismay over my suggestion that they had simply failed to turn up and asked that I take the story down until they have the opportunity to make their full presentation to council.

I can’t take the story down because anything posted to the website of the CBRM is fair game for reporting (and, in fact, the agenda including the HAT presentation, is still available to anyone who wants to read it on the municipal website). I also can’t send the message that anyone who doesn’t like what I’ve published can simply demand that I remove it.

But I can apologize for my flippant suggestion that Colford “failed to show,” it was highly inaccurate and I regret it.

And I can also advise readers — which, in fact, I already did — that they should wait for Colford’s appearance before council to judge the project, which I actually think looks great, involves a very modest ask of the municipality and will improve the experiences of theater-goers (including myself) mightily.


Price tag

My other correction is from two weeks ago, when I reported, based on budget discussions, that the CBRM would pay $2.5 million to businessman Jerry Nickerson for land it expropriated for the second cruise ship berth.

The CBC’s Tom Ayers reported yesterday that the CBRM will actually pay $3.8 million  — more than double the $1.5 million the municipality had initially budgeted for the property:

On Wednesday, the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board issued an order confirming the municipality and the landowner had settled on a price of $3.8 million for six waterfront lots.

CBRM had been offering owner Jerry Nickerson up to $2.4 million, but he argued the land was worth $4.2 million.

The municipality:

…had already paid for a portion of the settlement in the last fiscal year, but had to find a way to pay for the remaining $2.5 million in the coming year’s budget.

(Mayor McDougall says council will borrow it.)

And that’s all the crow I can eat at one sitting.