Sidney Crosby swoops in on the Calgary defense and fires top shelf to score the game-winning overtime goal for his Penguins. The Pittsburgh crowd on the September night goes wild.

But wait! It's just September! These games don't mean a thing in the standings; they're pre-season. Who really cares?

Well, chances are, you would if you had the Penguins to win this game in one of a number of sports lotteries throughout this country. While it's not the most dependable way of making money, betting on sports is big business, and always has been. Gambling and sports have co-existed almost since time began. Legalized gambling, while it can be abused, is always far preferable to the hypocrisy that it doesn't exist. (To learn more, see A Quick And Dirty Look At Sports Gambling.)

What's more, governments have all but encouraged the practice in recent years, given the dough that floods into government coffers from it.

IN PICTURES: Money Can't Buy Happiness, But What About Championships?

How Much Money?
In the fiscal year ending in March, 2009 Ontario lottery revenues from all sources - slots, lotteries, sports lotteries, scratch-and-win tickets - topped $3.8 billion in fiscal 2009. In British Columbia, the figure was $954 million in fiscal '09. In energy-rich Alberta, the projected revenue figure for lotteries in the upcoming fiscal year tops $1.3 billion, which, combined with the $700 million Albertans are expected to shell out on liquor, surpasses the $1.9 billion in anticipated royalties from conventional crude.

Sports Lotteries: Different Kettle of Fish
However, unlike other lottery games which are pure chance, sports lotteries combine chance and skill. Thus, it's possible for a skillful sports bettor to win if he or she knows something about the teams, players, game conditions and the "breaks" of the game. Sport Select is the umbrella under which sports betting games are offered by provincial lottery corporations in Canada. For example, Quebec's game is known as Pari sportif, in Ontario and Atlantic Canada, it's called Pro-Line, and in B.C. it is dubbed Sports Action. However, the rules for the games are similar in all provinces.

Initially created to offer betting primarily on North American professional sports leagues, Sport Select has expanded to offer betting on competitions such as English Premier League soccer and U.S. college basketball. As wagering on individual games technically violates the Criminal Code of Canada, this is a parlay game in which players bet on up to six different outcomes (minimum two outcomes in B.C. and the Maritimes, minimum three in Ontario, Quebec and elsewhere in Western Canada).

How to Play
Each week, the provincial lottery corporation publishes an event list that outlines the all the events and the odds of wagering. Let's say Toronto is hosting Montreal and you pick the Leafs to win by two goals or more. The odd on that contest is 1.50. The same night, you pick Detroit and Nashville to tie (in regulation, of course; overtime or a shootout can now break a tie). The odd of that regulation tie is 4.00. The third outcome on which you bet is called Over/Under, in which you wager that the goal total (still with Detroit and Nashville) will go over 4.5 by both clubs. The "Over" odd is 1.70.

Now, to boil this down, the total odds of those three outcomes are 10.20 (1.50 x 4.00 x 1.70). That means the $5 bet that you laid down on those three outcomes in those two games would win you $51.00, if both games worked out the way you bet them.

Easy Come
In some cases, the winnings are not penny-ante, and success stories on Ontario's Pro-Line website are positively mouth-watering. For example, one winner recently took home more than $72,000 on one offshoot of Pro-Line, Pro-Picks, in which players wager on individual performances. All told, in the last week of September, more than 22,000 winners shared $2.4 million on Pro·Line and their associated games!

Easy Go!
But, as always, there's the downside. The ease of playing and the possibility (however remote) of winning big lures folks into gambling, sometimes so deep that they can't get out. The latest figures from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) report that in Ontario, 3.8% of adults (or about 430,000 people) have moderate or severe gambling problems. An additional 9.6% (860,000 people) are classified as "at-risk" for problem gambling. A CAMH study of young people found that 4.7% of students engaged in heavy gambling in 2007. When the rush and the need for action overcomes reality, folks at risk are urged to seek help through gambling help lines. (For more, see Why We Splurge When Times Are Good.)

The Bottom Line
Summing up, gambling is intended to be fun, not as a way of making money. At the risk of sounding clichéd, the house always wins. That means, most of the time, you don't. Researching the soundness of this forward's ankle or that quarterback's knee and the effect they may have on next weekend's games should never occupy more time, energy, cash and thought than necessary things like working, eating, sleeping and otherwise taking care of your family. If it is, it's time to take a serious look at what you're doing. Keep gambling fun, and treat it as a part of life - not as life itself. (For more, check out Going All-In: Comparing Investing And Gambling.)

For the latest financial news, see Water Cooler Finance: History's Biggest Rogue Trading Scandal.

Related Articles
  1. Investing News

    Super Savings for Your Super Bowl Party? Bet on It

    Prices for wings, avocados and TVs are all coming down, which will make your Super Bowl 50 festivities less costly.
  2. Investing News

    Are Super Bowl Ads Worth Their High Cost?

    Are Super Bowl ads worth the investment? A look at the cost and how they're received.
  3. Forex Education

    Four Currencies Under the Spotlight in 2016

    With currencies having become the “tail that wags the dog,” in terms of their impact on the global economy, these four currencies will be under the spotlight in 2016.
  4. Economics

    How And Why Oil Impacts The Canadian Dollar

    The value of the Canadian dollar, or the loonie, has a strong correlation with oil prices.
  5. Personal Finance

    Powerball Mania: Take the Annuity?

    Should you win the lottery, you need to decide how to accept your winnings: lump sum or annuity payouts. Here's how to choose.
  6. Mutual Funds & ETFs

    The Top 3 ETFs For Investing in Canada

    Learn specific information about three of the most popular and best performing ETFs that offer exposure to Canadian equity markets for U.S. investors.
  7. Savings

    The Lottery: Is it Ever Worth Playing?

    You have better odds of being bitten by a poisonous snake, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t play — especially when the jackpot is really, really big.
  8. Real Estate

    Best 3 Mortgage Calculator Websites for Canadian Residents

    Understand the key features of Canadian mortgages, and discover a few of the best online mortgage calculators for Canadian home loans.
  9. Markets

    Privateer Holdings Revolutionizes the Cannabis Industry

    Watch Privateer Holdings succeed by bringing more respectability to the legalized medical and recreational marijuana and industries.
  10. Stock Analysis

    Effect of China's Slowdown on Gambling Stocks in the US (LVS)

    Find out how the recent market crash in China has impacted the U.S. gambling industry and how big resort stocks such as Wynn Resorts and Las Vegas Sands have fared.
RELATED FAQS
  1. Is Canada a developed country?

    Canada is a developed country. Countries that are considered to have developed economies exhibit strength in typical economic ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. Are Canadian Pension Plans inflation-protected?

    The Canada Pension Plan protects pension holdings against inflation and adjusts its annual rates for inflation. The Canada ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. Are tax shelters legal in Canada?

    Most tax shelters are legal in Canada. However, there have been illegal tax shelter scams that the Canada Revenue Agency ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. Does Canada have Social Security numbers?

    Social Insurance numbers (SINs) in Canada are equivalent to Social Security numbers (SSNs) in the United States. Canadian ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. Who decides to print money in Canada?

    In Canada, new money comes from two places: the Bank of Canada (BOC) and chartered banks such as the Toronto Dominion Bank ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. Why is Manchester United (MANU) carrying so much debt?

    The takeover of Manchester United by the Glazer family beginning in 2005 saddled the historic club with substantial amounts ... Read Full Answer >>
Hot Definitions
  1. Inverted Yield Curve

    An interest rate environment in which long-term debt instruments have a lower yield than short-term debt instruments of the ...
  2. Socially Responsible Investment - SRI

    An investment that is considered socially responsible because of the nature of the business the company conducts. Common ...
  3. Presidential Election Cycle (Theory)

    A theory developed by Yale Hirsch that states that U.S. stock markets are weakest in the year following the election of a ...
  4. Super Bowl Indicator

    An indicator based on the belief that a Super Bowl win for a team from the old AFL (AFC division) foretells a decline in ...
  5. Flight To Quality

    The action of investors moving their capital away from riskier investments to the safest possible investment vehicles. This ...
Trading Center