As I eagerly await the start of the pre-trials next week in Liverpool (which Kevin Martin apparently thinks I should not even be playing at!), just a few thoughts on pervasive trend that has developed in the last few years.
Bet…bet…BET, BET, BET!!! Fred Flintstone’s eyes rolled back into his head, and he lost all control, as this cartoon from my childhood so elegantly addressed gambling addiction.
Fast Forward to 2021. Like Fred Flinstone, my beloved sport of curling is getting into the gambling game. Years ago it was just some hard-core sports gambling sites giving odds on the Brier and Scotties. But now more and more sites have started providing action on games from the Slams and Curling Canada events. Betting sites have started sponsoring curling teams, encouraging the use of their platforms to make a few bucks on curling. And now even the traditionalist Curling Canada is getting its piece of the action, announcing a partnership with a sports betting site for their events.
On the surface this makes a lot of sense. Sports gambling is big business, and its involvement in the sport will surely bring in some dearly needed excitement and money to the game. Curling is trying to be Big League, and that means money and gambling.
But at the risk of being called a pearl-clutching doomsayer, I have a prolem with Curling Canada condoning gambling on its events.
I have a few real problems with this. First of all, many (most) of the teams at the Brier are amateurs. We do not make enough money at curling to make a living, and to be honest, our dedication to the sport also often limits our ability to make a good living away from the game. Put simply, curlers don’t have a lot of money. Only a handful of teams are truly financially stable. I am on the 30th ranked team in the world (give or take a few spots), and we are AT BEST financially break-even as a curling team. Unlike a lot of pro sports - there are no curling millionaires.
So here is the scenario: Province A is playing Province B at the Brier in a game where we are both teams have already been eliminated. Province A is a heavy favorite. Province A skip gets a call from a friendly gambler, and an offer for a $5000 sponsorship for the season if he were to lose.
To be clear if I am skipping Province A – I would say no. But when you have games that are meaningless, with amateur participants who are financially needy, you open yourself up to questions. Let’s say in my scenario, Province A skip says no to the offer, but then loses the game anyway. As a fan, would you not ask questions about the integrity of the game?
I get that for some, having a few bucks riding on an outcome enhances the viewing experience. But is this something Curling Canada should be condoning?
Look, I know gambling is going to happen whether Curling Canada or some of Canada's leading teams get involved or not. But curling jumping into this industry with both feet just feels wrong to me. As the gambler wisely advises: You gotta know when to walk away, and know when to run.