Torstar Corporation, the company that owns the Toronto Star, recently announced plans to launch an online casino brand later this year. The move has yet to be approved by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario. Corey Goodman, Torstar’s Chief Corporate Development Officer, put out a statement explaining the decision.

He stated that the Ontario-based media business has been a trusted brand for more than a century, putting it in a position to offer a unique and responsible gaming brand. Currently, the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation is the only approved online gambling operator in the province. However, the state’s government has pledged to expand the market to provide more options for residents.

Torstar Corporation’s venture into online gambling seems like an unusual business move for a newspaper company, but its success in previous pursuits earns it the benefit of the doubt. Aside from the Toronto Star, the most prominent daily newspaper in Canada, the firm also runs six regional daily newspapers and over 70 weekly community newspapers in Ontario. Several novel arguments support this Torstar digital investment, including;

  • Keep generated revenue within Ontario’s borders

Canada is among the most massive gambling markets globally, and Ontario is a huge contributor to this accolade. It is estimated that gamblers in the province spend around $396 million in casinos online (mostly on online slots) However, most of this money is spent on offshore websites thanks to the country’s open-ended regulations. Canadian law states that players can only access games from licensed gambling dens, but it does not limit internationally licensed casinos from accepting their residents. A lot of these funds also go to unregulated, grey-market offshore websites.

An online casino that targets the locals will ensure that the gambling dollars stay in the province. This will generate revenue to support important programs in Ontario, aligning the company with the Atkinson Principles that govern it. The principles hold that a progressive newspaper should aid in society’s advancement by pursuing social, economic, and political reforms.

  • Prop up the news business

The online casino’s ability to prop up the news business is among the main reasons Torstar is pursuing the venture. Players engaging with the newspaper casino will help to support and expand quality community-based journalism. Torstar has a chance at reaching an audience they never had a chance with if all they had on the table was news.

  • Save the company from going under

The new digital era is currently dominated by giant media companies like Google and Facebook. These firms take the lion’s share of digital advertising, causing most North American media outlets to go under. This issue has been propelled even further by the emergence of the COVID-19 crisis. The chair of the Torstar board, John Honderich, has been open about the Star’s uphill struggle to innovate and succeed with such giant competition. With an online gambling business under its belt, the company can generate enough to not only stay in business but also progress to new innovative heights.

  • Diversify ways to fund and pay staff

Ontario’s online casino business is worth millions, and tapping into it will allow Torstar to diversify its revenue model. The organization is already looking at ways to fund and pay for columnists, editorial staff, and reporters serving its newspaper subsidiaries. While these employees will not work directly with the casino, they stand to benefit from its revenue-generation.

  • Create new jobs

Launching a new online casino automatically creates a pool of new jobs for locals. Creating a gambling den requires a team of designers to open and optimize the website, software developers from whom to source games and the platform on which they will run, and a client care team to help players with any issues they run into when indulging in the casino’s services.

  • Offer market-targeted casino games and sports betting options

Torstar has been clear on its intentions to open a casino suited for the Ontario market rather than creating a generic gambling site. Therefore, the gambling club will likely be curated to fit the needs of Ontario gamblers. The website will focus on the games that players mostly interact with and table options that spark their interests. The same will go for bonuses and promotions, such as free spins, match promotions, and cashbacks. Rivett said the casino will offer a range of casino games from slots to table sets and sports betting.

Objectivity Concerns

The Toronto Star is famous for being part of advancing progressive causes like civil liberties, worker protections, and social justice issues. With its parent company, Torstar, venturing into online gaming, there are concerns on whether the newspaper will maintain impartiality on these issues. The company has been adamant that its novel arguments for launching the casino, including revenue generation, job creation, and diversifying its funds. Nonetheless, objectivity concerns are rooted in the fact that Torstar is now tied financially to an outside business.

One Richmond Hill official stated that if a gambling den were to open in Ontario communities a few months, Torstar’s local newspapers would have run a concerned local story. Now that the papers are tied to the industry, there is uncertainty on how they will cover such stories in the future. Previously, Torstar has been active in covering gambling, organized crime, and the Mafia’s involvement in running the gambling black market and vice rackets. Now that the federal government is propping up the media with casinos on top of tax dollars, many are questioning how the news and media industry will remain independent of external influences.

Closing Thoughts

Torstar has yet to go into detail on its expansion into the gambling market, making it hard to predict how things will go. While its fair-mindedness around reporting gambling issues is concerning to many people going forward, the company maintains that trust is still the core of its relationship between its news organization and audiences. The casino is likely to take off successfully, judging by the massive Ontario market it seeks to exploit, but it is unclear how much revenue it will generate.