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Why are the Raptors Promoting Gambling?


The NBA has a long and not-too-savory history with gambling. Last year the story of league referee Tim Donaghy betting on NBA games made international headlines. Former stars including Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley have also admitted to losing millions at Vegas casinos.

So when I attended yesterday's Raptors/Trailblazers game at the ACC I was a bit surprised to see the extent to which the team was promoting the online gambling site PokerStars.net.

When I entered the arena I was immediately handed a postcard-size game piece (see above photo) that promised a chance to play for a million dollars. Then, at various points throughout the game, myself and 20,000 other fans were prompted to follow along on the giant videoboard to see if our poker hand beat the computer simulated one belonging to Toronto professional poker player Daniel Negreanu.

The simulated hand was two pair which meant my three Queens made me a winner. When I got home I visited bballpoker.net to find out what I had to do to further my chances of winning.

As it turns out, I would first be required to download PokerStars software. Then, I would need to register to play in a tournament and finally I would enter my verification code for a free game entry.

My odds of winning a prize? According to the contest's fine print that would depend on the number of participants and their skill levels. But the real point here - and the reason PokerStars likely does this promotion - is win or lose, my participation has a good chance of being my gateway into the world of online poker, a past-time that some media have reported is a growing epidemic, especially among young men - the very audience that the Raptors themselves aim to court.

I'm not blaming PokerStars here for pursuing this promotion. Raptors fans are likely closely aligned with their target demographic. But the issue here is the judgement of the Raptors organization to accept this sort of advertising. At a time when the NBA needs to make a stand on gambling and clean up its act, featuring a PokerStars promotion as a regular side-event of Raptors home games seems like a bone-headed move.


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