Publishers around the world are continually searching for new and innovative ways to fund costly journalism as advertising revenues dry up and the outlook for print newspapers looks increasingly bleak.
But launching an online casino is a strategy that few if any publishers have gambled on – until now.
On Monday, Canada’s biggest newspaper publisher announced the launch of an online gaming app, indicating the extent to which companies are willing to go to lengths to push boundaries in order to survive the industry’s sustained downturn.
Torstar executive Corey Goodman said in a statement that “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.”
The company aims to capture a portion of the C$500 million (US$395) that Ontario residents spend on online gambling each year via its upcoming app, a market that is expected to expand in the coming years as new entrants are given permission to operate online by the province.
Torstar began publishing newspapers in 1892 and owns more than 70 regional and community newspapers.
The paper was sold to NordStar Capital LP for C$60 million in August after a bitter court battle. Although the new owners have tried a variety of revenue streams for the company, including launching a parcel delivery service, Monday’s announcement marks NordStar’s most ambitious bet.
The owners have said they will continue to emphasize the paper’s focus on advancing progressive causes.
Paul Rivett, chair and co-owner of Torstar, said in the release that “Doing this as part of Torstar will help support the growth and expansion of quality community-based journalism,”
The foray into gambling has surprised many in the industry, prompting both jokes and criticism, but Torstar has a history of supporting its journalism through highly profitable industries. For decades, Torstar owned Harlequin, the romance novel publisher, which it sold in 2014 for $455m.
The province’s local and gaming commission must approve Torstar’s gambling app before it can go online.