They are taking a gamble on gambling to support the growth and expansion of quality journalism, but when those charged with scrutinizing the powers that be, who will be left to keep them on the straight and narrow?
“As an Ontario-based media business and trusted brand for more than 128 years, we believe Torstar will provide a unique and responsible gaming brand that creates new jobs, offers growth for the Ontario economy and generates new tax revenue to help support important programs in our province,” said Torstar executive Corey Goodman in a statement.
High hopes for market shares
Players in Ontario are already spending half a billion dollars on online gambling each year, and Torstar hopes to capitalize on the growing market as more operators are granted licenses and permission to operate in the province.
Paul Rivett, the chair and co-owner of Torstar, offered two reasons for the company’s rather unorthodox business venture.
Firstly, he said, is to make sure that an Ontario-based company is represented in the new marketplace, “so that more of our players’ entertainment dollars stay in our province.” And secondly, to support its news business: “Doing this as a part of Torstar will help support the growth and expansion of quality community-based journalism,” Rive said.
Digital news outlets are currently losing the battle for advertisers with Facebook and Google coming out on top with a majority of the market shares.
Gambling platform under construction
Torstar’s online gambling portal is currently under construction and the company hopes to launch this new service before the end of 2021, and the final details will be developed in tandem with how the government decide to vote on the single-event betting issue.
Jim Warren, a former Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp executive, has been brought over to Torstar to lead the online gambling initiative. He was asked the question that’s on everybody’s mind, how to retain the trust of the readers while running an online gaming company under the same umbrella.
“We’re looking at multiple ways of doing this but this is one way we think that ensures the integrity of journalism and can provide resources for investigative journalism that the Star is known for,” Warren said.
It’s still not clear on how the news company will maintain its integrity when it comes to covering stories about the online gambling industry.
Other revenue streams
Torstar has a history of making money outside its core business. For decades, the company owned Harlequin, best known for publishing romance novels, but that section was spun off and sold for C$455 million in 2014.
In November 2020, Metroland Parcel services, the Torstar business responsible for delivering news papers and fliers to Ontario residents for more than 100 years, announced that their services were expanded to delivering private parcels bought from third party vendors. Reportedly, the first parcel delivered this way by the company was from Canadian Toys R Us.