Canada

Drake's Oilers bet with Stake is one that local NHL fans can't make themselves

Drake says he put a big bet on the Edmonton Oilers to win the Stanley Cup. But fans in the team's backyard can't make the same bet themselves, and not just in terms of the money involved.

Stake not a legal option in B.C., the Prairies, Ontario and Atlantic Canada

Drake is seen wearing headphones to conduct a live interview during a Raptors-Celtics game in November 2023.
Drake — a noted sports fan — is seen wearing headphones to conduct an in-game interview during an NBA game featuring the Toronto Raptors and the Boston Celtics at Toronto's Scotiabank Arena last November. The Canadian rapper recently shared on Instagram that he'd placed a $500,000 US bet that the Edmonton Oilers will win the Stanley Cup — a wager he made on a site called Stake, for which he acts as a brand ambassador. (Dan Hamilton/USA TODAY Sports/Reuters)

Drake has seemingly bet big on the Edmonton Oilers to win the Stanley Cup Finals.

A recent post on his Instagram account outlines a $500,000 US bet in favour of the Canadian team hoping to bring the Cup north of the border for the first time in 30-plus years.

"Oilers are self explanatory," reads the post from last Thursday on Drake's @champagnepapi account, which notes the bet was made with Stake — a site with which he has a paid relationship, reportedly worth millions, as a brand ambassador.

The Stanley Cup bet story has already garnered lots of media attention in Canada, though it's not clear how beneficial it is for Stake, given that it's not really much of a player on this side of the border at this time.

A post from Drake outlined a $500,000 US bet the Canadian rapper is putting on the Edmonton Oilers — with him betting that the team will win the Stanley Cup Finals.
A post from Drake outlined a $500,000 US bet he is putting on the Edmonton Oilers — with him betting that the team will win the Stanley Cup. (champagnepapi/Instagram)

That's because Stake, which describes itself as a licensed international operator, is not legally authorized to offer sports betting in the province of Alberta. And it's not a legal option in more than half a dozen other provinces, with regulators and officials in B.C., Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Atlantic Canada confirming they have sole sites authorized for online sports betting, which aren't the one that Drake used. Stake is not operating in Ontario, the only province with a broad legal market for online gambling.

It's unclear how Drake places his bets, but Stake says "an important part of our engagement with Drake is ensuring that relevant legislation regarding betting and streaming activities is complied with." 

Emailed questions about Drake's Oilers bet and relationship with Stake that were sent to Brent Smith, a booking agent who represents Drake at Wasserman, did not yield a written response.

'Global audience' for hockey

"I've never heard of Stake before [this]," said Andrew Kim, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Calgary, who studies sports gambling. 

He pointed out that with Drake's millions of followers on Instagram, there will be undoubtedly more people on this side of the border, like himself, absorbing the Drake-and-Stake story.

"Not all of them are Canadians, but a lot of them will be Canadians and they will see that," said Kim.

When asked if the Drake-involved bet is intended to draw attention of Canadian consumers, Stake told CBC News that the appeal of hockey goes beyond Canada's borders.

"While events like the Stanley Cup are popular in Canada, they are also followed by a global audience," the company said in an email.

No Stake in Ontario — yet

Further east, Oilers fans in Ontario — a province, which by contrast, has established a broad legal market with dozens of licensed private operators — can't bet on Stake either.

A puck shot by Florida Panthers centre Evan Rodirgues is seen getting past Edmonton Oilers goalie Stuart Skinner during the first game of the Stanley Cup Finals last Saturday. The Oilers lost the series opener to the Panthers 3-0.
A puck shot by Florida Panthers centre Evan Rodirgues is seen getting past Edmonton Oilers goalie Stuart Skinner during the first game of the Stanley Cup final last Saturday. The Oilers lost the series opener to the Panthers 3-0. Canadian music superstar Drake has placed a $500,000 US bet on the Oilers winning the Cup. (Wilfredo Lee/The Associated Press)

IGaming Ontario (iGO), a subsidiary of the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO), told CBC News that Stake is not a licensed operator in the Ontario market.

And while an iGO spokesperson would not comment on "prospective operators that may join the market in the future," there are industry rumblings that Stake is trying to do just that — with the Financial Times reporting last year that Stake was seeking a gambling licence in Ontario.

There's also the fact that Ontarians visiting the Stake.com site are prompted with a message indicating they should visit Stake.ca, where "going forward" it will be "a fully licensed platform" for customers in Canada's most-populous province. 

As of Monday, however, the Stake.ca website said only that its services were "coming [in] 2024."

The company itself confirms it's not "currently" operating there.

"As a global online platform, availability is subject to the regulatory requirements of the region," Stake told CBC News.

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Karin Campbell, the manager of communications for Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis confirms that the provincially-run Play Alberta site "is the only regulated and legal online gaming site in Alberta."

It's the same story in B.C., Saskatchewan and Manitoba, which each have single legal sites where their residents can bet on sports.

Atlantic Canada is another region where Canadians aren't supposed to be looking elsewhere to bet on sports.

Greg Weston, senior communications counsel for the Atlantic Lottery Corporation, says his organization carries "the sole authority and responsibility to operate the only legal online gaming and sports betting platform in the Atlantic Canadian provinces."

In an email, Weston said there many people in the Atlantic region seeing ads for sites and services that "cannot legally operate or advertise" there. 

"An estimated $190 million leaves our region each year through play on these illegal gambling websites," said Weston, who noted Atlantic Lottery has just launched a campaign to increase awareness about this issue.

Drake, UFC, soccer and F1 racing

The Stake logo will be familiar to fans of Formula One motor racing and of English Premier League football.

The logo of the Stake gambling brand is seen on the front of the jersey of Everton FC player Aboulaye Doucoure, during a English Premier League soccer game against Arsenal FC last month.
The logo of the Stake gambling brand is seen on the front of the jersey of Everton FC player Aboulaye Doucouré, left, during a English Premier League soccer game against Arsenal FC last month. (Reuters/Paul Childs)

Because the brand's logo currently appears on the front of Everton FC jerseys, as well as on the cars and gear of an F1 team that was among those competing at last weekend's Canadian Grand Prix.

Stake's website lists other sponsorships, however, including those with the UFC league and also with Drake. 

The company's efforts to promote its brand via these types of sports leads Kim to suspect it's aiming to attract the attention of younger, educated men who have disposable income — a demographic he says are likely to participate in sports betting.

"That's the target audience," said Kim.

The Stake logo is seen on the car being driven by Valtteri Bottas during the Formula One Canadian Grand Prix race in Montreal last weekend.
The Stake logo is seen on the car being driven by Valtteri Bottas during the Formula One Canadian Grand Prix race in Montreal last weekend. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

Stake says its brand-ambassador partnership with Drake dates back "several years" and pointed to posts on social media that have highlighted that.

"With regards to Drake's betting activities, these are his personal choices and not influenced or directed by Stake," the company said.

Ontario regulator watching

In Ontario, online gambling operators are not supposed to have athletes, celebrities or other influential persons promoting their services if they would be likely to appeal to minors. (There is one exception: Such individuals are permitted to promote responsible  gambling.)

When asked about the case involving Drake and Stake, AGCO said it "does not have regulatory authority over unregulated gaming sites or those that operate outside of Ontario."

But the regulator said it "monitors the corporate behaviour of entities applying to enter the Ontario market, including their activities in other jurisdictions, and considers this information appropriately when determining their eligibility for registration in Ontario."

Furthermore, any company cleared to enter the Ontario market would have to meet all regulatory standards, the AGCO said.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Geoff Nixon is a writer on the national digital desk in Toronto. He has covered a wealth of topics, from real estate to technology to world events.