Sports has and always will be the same: two entities, whether team or individual, facing off to win a game, match, or tournament. The difference is how they come to win.
It’s the reason many fans watch, but for some it can even include a financial incentive.
St. Thomas University student Alex Compton said he typically bets on a game when there’s a large event, such as the Super Bowl or UFC fight cards.
“We’re (him and friends) going to be watching it, so we’ll put $10 in our betting account and make a bet,” Compton said.
Sports betting allows anyone of legal age to place a wager on sports from around the world. That wager comes with odds, so it’s not entirely up to chance.
Betting has grown from picking Super Bowl champions, to picking which Gatorade colour will be dumped on the coach after the win, to how many shots a certain player will get in a hockey game, to random bets like Compton’s.
“There was one time [when] I bet on a Russian hockey game. My friends and I were together … and they actually ended up winning. We had no idea who these teams were — it was just a joke,” said Compton.
In August 2021, the federal government passed Bill C-218, which gave provinces and their leaders the authority to manage single-game betting as they see fit. The sports betting industry at that time was estimated to be in the range of $10 billion for single-game bets on the black market.
Now that it is legal in Canada, single-game betting has skyrocketed and is expected to earn more than $20 billion in 2026, Bloomberg Intelligence gaming analyst Brian Egger told CBC.
Even athletes have indulged themselves in the sports betting world, including baseball star and former MLB member Pete Rose, who was banned from the MLB because he was betting on himself and his team.
Brentford F.C. striker Ivan Toney was also accused by the Football Association of 232 alleged breaches of gambling law over four years. The player was scoring at a torrent pace in the Premier League, and now faces a lengthy ban.
Compton said he never puts more than $20 in for a bet because he knows the risks of gambling and doesn’t want to develop a habit.
Bettor Chris Hachey said he puts down $5 a couple of times a week on games and wins around $35. The most he’s won on a single bet was $150 when he placed a bet on an NHL game.
After Bill C-218 was passed, sports watching has never been the same, with many games or commercials including sponsors that focus on sports betting, such as DraftKings, which sponsors Hockey Night in Canada on Sportsnet.
Occasional bettor Brandon Sutton said the advertisements for sports betting is “out of control,” but admits that the hobby can have upsides.
“Sports betting tends to make watching the sport more interesting and exciting,” he said.
Hachey said he doesn’t believe he is consciously influenced by the ads to continue betting on sports.
“I feel like it makes some games that you might not normally watch more interesting to follow,” said Hachey.
Compton said with sports betting gain in popularity, he has seen people get caught up in it, likening it to be a “pay day.” But he admits the chances of that happening are still pretty slim.
“Winning is always a bonus, but for me, it’s more a social aspect when you’re hanging with your friends — it’s a fun thing to do,” said Compton.