Are Ontario’s Betting Ads Driving Problem Gambling?

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Many are seeing an uptick in online betting advertising following the legalization and regulation of the industry in Ontario this spring.

With increasing demand for betting motivated by rising advertisements, it’s not surprising that Hôtel-Dieu Grace Healthcare, the only hospital in Ontario offering gambling addiction treatment, will see more patients. Diana Gabriele is a certified gambling counsellor at Hôtel-Dieu, and has seen firsthand how addiction to gambling starts in Quebec and spreads across the country.

“We, as counsellors, knew that with that accessibility, that ease of access, combined with technology, that people would be even more susceptible to the ravages of gambling,” she noted.

“We’ve been seeing an uptick of that ever since the single sports betting came online in April.” The government legalized sports betting in 2021, allowing individual provincial governments to regulate it. With regulation, businesses were able to start promoting sports betting products again. As a result, there has been a considerable amount of new advertising.

“We started getting people, and they were really concerned and panicked about, you know, this greater ease and accessibility to this form of gambling when it was already quite a problem for them,” said Gabrielle.

Out of all types of gambling, sports betting has been found to be most addictive. It’s highly stimulating, because the gamblers experience such intense highs and lows that create a “euphoric state”. This means it’s easy to lose sight of how much you’re spending on bets, or how deep you could get into it if you don’t stop.

Gabrielle elaborated; “There’s like massive doses of dopamine that are released in one’s brain, and that dopamine causes a euphoric state and great feelings of excitement, and contentment and fun,” she continued. “One can easily lose sight of the money they’re spending and how deep they’re getting into the activity because there’s so much feel-good chemicals happening.”

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