Canadians bet large on quest for holy grail

SPRING is a time of traditions. It is customary this season to see spring cleaning, exercise, yard sales, gardening, and the most lasting spring tradition of all — the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The NHL playoffs represent a two-month stretch where hockey fills the hearts and minds of Canadians. Despite intense rivalries, all Canadians will be in solidarity in their reverence for the “holy grail”.

In fact, the NHL playoffs aren’t so much a tradition as they are a series of traditions and rituals. The next eight weeks will see playoff beards, playing through pain, the post-series handshake line, Game 7s, shocking upsets, shifts in momentum and unforgettable comebacks.

Another ritual that belongs in that list is betting. A new national survey from the Responsible Gambling Council (RGC) shows that Canada’s national pastime is also fertile ground for gambling. In fact, Canadians plan to wager $210 million on the grueling two-month hockey tournament with nearly two in 10 adults intending to place a bet.

Just over a thousand Canadians were asked how they plan to bet during the 2014 NHL playoffs. Nine per cent of people polled indicated they planned to participate in a hockey pool followed by six per cent who said they intended to bet with their friends. The remaining betting categories included buying sports-based lottery tickets such as PRO•LINE (5 per cent), betting online (3 per cent) and betting with a bookie (1 per cent).

Over the last year, the most popular sport to bet on was NHL hockey at 12 per cent.

NFL football came in close second place among Canadian sports gamblers as nine per cent reported placing a bet on at least one NFL game in the last 12 months. This is in stark contrast to our American neighbours where football is overwhelmingly the most popular sport to bet on.

Rounding out the Canadian findings for the last 12 months were the Sochi Winter Olympics and the CFL, both at five per cent, followed by Major League Baseball (4 per cent) and NCAA College Basketball (3 per cent).

Betting on sports is pretty common, and it’s no surprise that hockey is a favourite for Canadians. As we head into the NHL playoffs, we should all remember that it is a type of gambling, and so comes with risks. In fact, the survey found that eight per cent of Canadians know someone they think might have a problem with sports betting.

Betting on hockey is most popular for Canadians aged 18 to 34, with 27 per cent saying they plan to bet on this year’s NHL playoffs. This is important because research has consistently shown not only that sports betters tend to be younger, but also that young adults have the highest risk of developing gambling problems.

Chasing losses, or gambling more to win back what you lost, is a key sign of a gambling problem. When asked if they have ever kept betting to try to recoup what they lost almost two-in-10 (18 per cent) of the 18 to 34 year-old group said yes. This number is significantly higher than the national average of 12 per cent. For those who believe they can win back losses by betting more, the consequences can be financially and emotionally devastating.

If you or someone you know is chasing losses, it may be time to take a reality check. For information go to

[Source: The Responsible Gambling Council]