Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Gambling and the NHL have been in bed for a while

By now, I'm sure you've heard about the NHL's latest saga: the Rick Tocchet gambling story.

It's still incredibly early, and everyone is presumed innocent until proven otherwise, but this is about the last thing hockey needed.

This will be on the cover of a whole lot of sports sections and be on national news telecasts on all networks. When was the last time that was the case for the NHL? The announcement of the new CBA?

If I'm Gary Bettman, the thing that makes me most upset is that this story leaked before all the facts have been discovered. What has resulted is a frenzy of speculation. How many players are truly involved? We don't know. They say half a dozen but if the investigation is still ongoing, will more be outed?

Were they betting on hockey? There doesn't seem to be a consensus even from within those who are doing the investigating. One individuals says they believe the bets were placed strictly on baseball and football, while another claims it's too early to rule anything out.

Who is this owner involved? Is it Mario Lemieux, who has close connections to both Tocchet and the Gretzky family as well as being geographically close to where the alleged ring was based. Is it Gretzky himself, who due to his stake in the Coyotes could be described as an NHL owner?

All of these questions are the NHL's worst nightmare.

For them, this can't end soon enough and the truth cannot revealed a minute too soon.

Beyond the legal ramifications of this, the moral aspect deserves mentioning. Is gambling wrong? Society as a whole seems to have no consistent answer to this question. Generally, we see nothing wrong with going to the casino and bets on dice, but if these bets are placed underground, those involved are shady. It's a thin line.

Many regard gambling as a sickness or disease similar to alcoholism or drug addictions. There isn't as much scientific evidence, that I'm aware of anyway (anyone who knows otherwise, please, leave a comment and correct me), that veries this theory. The number of "problem gamblers" is apparently quite low, as in 1 or 2%, but nevertheless, they're out there. It's an issue.

And what you often read in studies is that compulsive gamblers aren't strictly at casinos or in illegal card games. There are all sorts of gambling activities available to someone with a problem. And a few of them have already had NHL involvement.

The league is involved with the OLGC, allowing Ontario residents to place bets on NHL games via the Pro Line games. One has to assume they're getting a piece of some profits from the OLGC, or they would go the NBA route and not allow their games to be involved.

Two years ago, the two Alberta NHL clubs partnered up to create a scratch lottery ticket, "Breakaway To Win". They handled the marketing of the project and shared in the revenues.

Scratch tickets don't have the same stigma as other methods of gambling, and whether or not they're "bad" can be debated (I don't think they are), but really, that's beside the point.

The latest example is the desire of the Pittsburgh Penguins to obtain a licence from the state of Pennsylvania to build a casino consisting of slot machines, with the profits going to the Penguins club. They say that without it, the Penguins will not be able to survive in Pittsburgh.

I realize, with the alleged involvement of organized crime, this Tocchet instance is much worse and should be treated more seriously than the examples given above. My point, however, is that the NHL and gambling have been intertwined for years. Now that it's gone one step too far, the suits and ties will be outraged. What else is new.


At 9:15 AM, Anonymous David Johnson said...

From what I have read, this isn't (directly) an NHL issue, but a legal issue involving NHL players. I haven't read any accusations of NHL players betting on or influencing the outcomes of games. The issue is Tocchet illegally acting as a "bookie" and promoting gambling. It isn't really much different than someone dealing drugs. Dealing drugs is illegal. Promoting gambling and acting as a bookie is illegal. Bad people (or people who do bad things) exist in the hockey world just as they exist in the rest of the world.

If players bet on NHL games or outcomes of games have been influenced then it does become an NHL issue. Tocchet said "It's not a hockey-related issue, it's a football thing" and the fact that this was announced 2 days after the superbowl might add credence to this.

If I'm Gary Bettman, the thing that makes me most upset is that this story leaked before all the facts have been discovered.

I am not sure the story leaked. It was the New Jersey police that released the story when they announced the charges against Tocchet. Some of the additional information (like Gretzky's wife's invovlement) has been leaked though.

At 6:27 PM, Anonymous Duff said...

Anyone see the irony in Gary Bettman's last name?

At 11:46 PM, Blogger The Dawg House said...

I just finished bloggin' on this same issue (sorta)...I started, had a tangent (kinda like Gordo from The Tragically Hip)...then got back on track after mocking the American media (and Americans momentarily...). Nice insight here...I'm a Habs fan, but a very minor Sens fan...they just really REALLY need to beat Toronto once in the playoffs...good lord.

Anyhow, check out my view:
The Dawg House
Let It Rain...on The King of Canada


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