Shane Pinto’s NHL Ban: A Gambling Awareness Wake-Up Call

Shane Pinto, a forward for the Ottawa Senators, has been handed a 41-game suspension due to his involvement in online sports betting. This significant disciplinary action by the NHL has sparked crucial discussions about mental health support in professional sports, particularly around gambling.

In the video below, Darren Dreger, TSN’s Hockey Insider, joins Geno Reda for an in-depth discussion on the suspension details and the future prospects of the 22-year-old restricted free agent.

Concerns About The Lack of Mental Health Support

One of the most outspoken people when it comes to those concerns of support for young athletes is David Hodgins. A professor at the University of Calgary’s psychology department – who also works with the Alberta Gambling Research Institute – pointed out the prevalence of betting advertising.

Given the impact that companies and their advertising campaigns are having, Hodgins surmised that it was just a matter of time before an athlete became entangled in the situation Pinto finds himself in.

“It makes sense that some of those individuals would be athletes who are competitive, around the front lines, they’re getting exposed and seeing other people be involved with gambling and have successes with their gambling,” Hodgins said. “And it seems inevitable that some people would be enticed to be involved.”

Hodgins then said he hoped that the NHL would take a closer look at the issue. It could change how the league – and other major leagues – view gambling use disorders. Because this is such new ground, the NHL doled out punishment without further action.

“(My hope is) there’s recognition that people can be addicted, that there’s some sort of impairment of control that can for some people be associated with their gambling involvement and that the appropriate professional support is provided to people,” Hodgins continued.

Not the First Athlete

It didn’t take a professor to know that the legalization of sports wagering in 2018 would make waves. The decision from the U.S. Supreme Court wound up clearing the way to the vast online sports betting world we now find commonplace.

Pinto is just the latest to become involved in sports betting. The two most prominent cases since the passing of sports betting legislation have come from the NFL. Detroit Lions wide receiver Jameson Williams was hit with a six-game suspension to start this season because he made wagers while on team property.

Perhaps the most notable example also came from the NFL. Then-Atlanta Falcons receiver Calvin Ridley was hit with a full-season ban. It was discovered that he had been placing parlay wagers at the time of his suspension. He has since returned to the NFL, now with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

How Leagues Are Approaching the Situation

As noted above, the NFL has a zero-tolerance policy on the matter. The two major suspensions have been doled out with the hopes of curbing any potential enticement on the part of players.

The American Hockey League, through a statement issued recently, said it is discussing with the players’ association whether there needs to be a revision to the current policy on betting. As it stands, players or league employees are prohibited from betting on AHL games.

The Canadian Hockey League teams, comprised of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL), Ontario Hockey League (OHL), and Western Hockey League (WHL), created a policy on sports betting prior to the beginning of this season.

The CHL’s program includes online education and hopes to make sure that the policy is understood. Additionally, they hope that support is there for those who are in need.

“The CHL has specifically worked alongside the Canadian Mental Health Association to help educate our players on the signs and symptoms of problem gambling in order to help provide them with the support they require to not only support themselves, but their teammates, loved ones, and/or others as well,” said the league through a statement.

Recognizing the Effects of Gambling

Andrew Kim, who works as a professor at the University of Calgary and has research focused on addiction and gambling, has said that there needs to be a greater recognition of the effect that betting can have on younger people.

“Younger adults are at greater risk of gambling and gambling related harms,” said Kim. “If you have a teammate who’s showing up to practice intoxicated you kind of know, but you might not be able to tell if someone is having a gambling problem.”

For now, the hope is that the league will begin to open discussions with player welfare in mind. Whether that comes to fruition remains to be seen.

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Closing Remarks: A Call for Change

Rowan Fisher-Shotton Sports Betting Journalist at GambleOntario

Rowan Fisher-Shotton

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This incident with Shane Pinto is a call to action for sports leagues to reassess their approach to responsible gambling and mental health. The hope is that this will lead to more comprehensive support for athletes, ensuring their well-being in the face of the challenges posed by the world of professional sports and gambling.

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