Canadian Newspaper Group Plans Online Casino to Fund Journalism

By | March 3, 2021

A newspaper company that owns the storied Toronto Star hopes to launch  an online betting brand with casino games and sports wagering. 

Toronto Star Sports Betting
A person walks past a Toronto Star newspaper box in front at the Star’s offices. The company that owns the Star plans to start an online casino to fund its news reporting. (Image: North County Public Radio)

Torstar Corp., owned by investment company Nordstar, is venturing into online gaming to help fund its journalism, according to the Canadian Broadcast Corp. In addition to the Toronto Star, Torstar owns the Hamilton Spectator and other newspapers.

Since its founding in 1892, the Toronto Star has focused in part “on advancing progressive causes, such as worker protections, civil liberties, and other social justice issues,” the CBC reported.

Online gambling will be helpful in financing these journalistic efforts, the company’s owners said.

Doing this as part of Torstar will help support the growth and expansion of quality, community-based journalism,” co-owner Paul Rivett said.

Government data shows Ontario residents spend $500 million a year on online gambling on websites outside Canada, according to Torstar.

“We want to ensure the new marketplace is well represented with a Canadian, Ontario-based gaming brand, so that more of our players’ entertainment dollars stay in our province,” Rivett said.

A gaming industry consultant said it’s not clear how much revenue the online casino will bring in.

“We don’t know how big the market is going to be in Ontario yet, because it will depend on the consultation process within government, which is about to happen in the next couple of months,” consultant Jim Warren told the Canadian Press.

According to the CBC, only the Ontario government is licensed to conduct online gambling. However, the province at some point this year will allow companies to participate. Torstar’s online effort requires approval from the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario.

Objectivity Called Into Question

The company’s move into online gaming raises concerns among those who question whether the newspapers can maintain objectivity.

Tom Muench, a public official in Richmond Hill, Ont., told CBC News he wonders whether the Torstar chain, in trying to say afloat, might be financially tied to an outside business. Richmond Hill is about 35 minutes north of downtown Toronto.

”I think it’s fair to say that if a casino was to pop up in communities, say, six months ago, many local Torstar-owned papers would write a concerned local story,” he told CBC News.

Muench also questioned how the papers would cover any other businesses jumping into online gaming. 

“If the federal government propped up the media with government tax dollars and now with casinos, how do we assure a strong independent news and media industry?” he asked.

The Toronto Star and other news outlets have been active in covering gambling and organized crime in the country. This coverage has included Mafia involvement in vice rackets, such as illegal gaming. Casino.org also covers these issues in Canada.

Hemingway’s Newspaper

The Toronto Star’s crime coverage included work in earlier years by Ernest Hemingway. After returning from Italy, where he was wounded during World War I, Hemingway became a reporter at the Toronto Star.

Before going to the war as a teenage Red Cross ambulance driver, he had been a reporter at the Kanas City Star for about six months. At both newspapers, Hemingway covered crime, including, in Toronto, bootleggers smuggling illegal liquor into the US.

Later, living in Paris, Hemingway served as a European correspondent for the Toronto Star. He did this while working on fiction that would earn him international acclaim in his mid-20s. He later won the Nobel Prize in Literature.

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