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My memories of Peretz Shul

By KINZEY POSEN It was a late Friday afternoon at Peretz Shul in 1964 or so. A good friend of mine at the time whose Yiddish name was Moishe said, “That’s it! I’m not coming back to school on Monday, I’m out of here!” Ok, as an 11 year old, he might have said it in a slightly different way. It was the first day of school in September and we were just about to go home. “Sure you are Moishe, I’m sure you’ll be back on Monday,” I told him.

Grade one 150 dpi


Kinzey’s Grade 1 Peretz School class circa 1960
(Thanks to Sandy Shefrin for helping with identifying almost everyone; comments supplied by Kinzey)
Bottom Row crosslegged, left to right: Arthur Greenspan, unidentified, Matthew Levin (a.ka. Moishe in the story)
Second Row (l-r): Paula Wolfman, Rosa Scyzgiel, Shirley Starek, Myra Miller, Faye Golubchuk, Ruthie Rosenzweig,, Honey Leah Berman, Marcie Fleisher
Third Row (l-r): Diane McKay, Lucy Baumel, Janice Goldberg, Howard Kaplan, Sandy Shefrin, Heather Wallace, Pammy Zimmer (Kinzey’s wife, Shayla Fink’s first cousin, a beautiful person (alev hasholem)
Top row (l-r): Sidney Lieber, Martin (Kinzey) Posen, Sheldon Weidman, Harvey Zahn, Harvey Koffman (my first cousin) , Sidney Shoib, Morris Glimcher, Shawn Zell, Miss (Claire) Nelko (who is now Claire Breslaw)

Come Monday, true to his word, my friend did not come back. He had entered an alternate dimension it seemed; he was finished with Peretz Shul! Unheard of! Impossible! How did he do it? Moishe’s act of sedition was a reaction to the Yiddish teacher we had been blessed with that year and he was done. All of us in the class were in awe and Moishe, no worse for wear, having left the school, went on to become a respected ambassador for Canada’s Foreign Service.
A little while back, Bernie asked me to write about Peretz Shul from a different perspective: My own, as a student. I have often wondered why this institution. for those of us who went there, lives so large in our memories. Full disclosure: My grandmother Katya Posen Z’l, nee Gurarie, was one of the founders of Peretz Shul and a lifelong member of the Muter Farein – the women’s organization that helped establish the kindergarten and supported the school.

My father, Abe Posen, attended the school as did his sister, my aunt, Goldie Zuidema Z”l. My dad often told me stories of how various teachers at Peretz used to rent one of the rooms in their house on Burrows. To put it mildly, our family was steeped in Peretzness.
My era began in 1957 when I attended nursery school and then, kindergarten. To this day, I can still smell the matches when our teacher lit the Shabbat candles on Friday and we laid out our little mats to have a nap on. Being a socialist school for the most part, you would think Shabbat would not have been part of the school experience, but I have so many great reminiscences of those two years from making little coloured paper rings several metres long, to receiving the right colour star if we behaved. I loved getting those silver and gold ones alongside my name on the wall – wonderful, warm memories.
Our principal in those early days was Chaver Herstein – an imposing man with a wonderful head of hair and a bit of a temper. We called all our teachers by either “chaver” or “chaverteh” which, in this context, translated to “comrade”. We also called them Leher or Leheren – teacher in Yiddish. Our school was located at 601 Aikins, between Inkster and Polson Avenues. How do I remember the address? Early on as soon as we could write, we always wrote the address at the top of the left corner of the sheet of paper. Now, the building is a health community centre. Once we entered Grade One, our days were separated into half day Yiddish and half day English classes.

Grade One for me – and I am sure for my classmates, was a truly seminal experience. Pushed out of the warm bosom of kindergarten, Grade One meant getting down to serious work. Reading, see Dick run, see Jane run, see Dick and Jane run, writing, singing and my own personal challenge………arithmetic. Our Yiddish teacher, Miss Nelko, was the most beautiful woman who genuinely cared about her students. We loved her and she laid the groundwork for us learning Yiddish and how to be little menches and menchettes. Many years later, Shayla and I received a call about playing a wedding for an older couple. They came over to our house one evening and as we planned the event, it occurred to me that I knew who this woman was: My beloved Miss Nelko, some 40 years later. What a reunion it was!

Our English teacher, on the other hand, had a different style of teaching that could be best described, as adversarial. I renamed her Tyrannosaurus Rex and the invisible scars are still with me. Her approach to learning arithmetic was to say the least, extremely challenging. I was one of those kids who learned math in a different way and in those days, kids such as myself fell through the cracks and we fell deeply. All I remember is after a short explanation of one plus one equals two, etc., we all had to stand up by the blackboard as T Rex wrote a problem on the board. We could not sit down unless we put our hands up and answered correctly. Guess who was often the last kid standing? Me, of course, and I eventually memorized it all so I could finally sit down.
Another time, T Rex distributed to each of us a sheet of paper for some writing project. She gave me what we called at the time “grade one” paper. It’s where the lines were printed with one bold line and two lighter lines and then another bold line. It also had big wood chips in it. I noticed that she was also giving out what we called “grade two” paper. These were all symmetrical bold lines and I wanted one. When she finished giving them out, she asked if everyone received one and me, being me, said, “I didn’t.” My six-year-old brain conveniently forgot that my desk was in the front row and I had scrunched up the grade one paper into a ball and cleverly thought she wouldn’t see it in the wood support for the desk.
As I put my hand up and told her I didn’t get one, she approached my desk in a threatening way, reached into the desk support and said, “What is this?” I was fully chastised, and T Rex bellowed, “You will only get grade one paper for the rest of the year.”
The reality was, in those days, especially in the context of a parochial school, you sometimes had people teaching who were not trained and did not have the skills to do the job. Not only that, more than a few were survivors of the Holocaust and we eventually learned that they experienced terrible horrors in the camps and ghettos.
That being said, I had several wonderful teachers, whose voices to this day still reverberate in my head and I often reflect about their ability to connect and elevate the students.

Mrs. Gold, Mrs. Brooks and Pascal Fishman were some of them. Chaver Fishman came to us from Buenos Aires and was one of our Yiddish teachers. He had a great capacity to see potential in students and encourage them. Another of our teachers, Mrs. Wallace, taught us English and her daughter was in our class for years. The family wasn’t Jewish, but Heather my classmate, spoke Yiddish like a pro. I remember one of our later Yiddish teachers, Mrs. Korman, taught us “Zol Nit Keynmol” the Warsaw Ghetto Song, and led us in a procession to St. John’s Park in the spring, while we sang that song and others.
The year at Peretz Schul was highlighted by two major events. The annual essay contest in Yiddish and English, and the graduation, which took place towards the end of June. For each of those occasions, the auditorium would be absolutely packed and very hot. As students, we often escaped outside to cool off in the lane and we could hear what was going on by the open side doors.

The cultural offerings at Peretz were in my opinion, outstanding. We were taught so many great songs, we acted in plays and we created art. Jewish holidays were celebrated with a Yiddishe taam (Yiddish flavour). Since my Hebrew name was Mordechai/Motel, I always got the part of Mordechai in the Purim play. The music component was delivered by Chaver Bronstein or Mr. Brownstone as he was known at Talmud Torah. His classes were always held in the auditorium, where he’d stand by his easel flipping the song sheets written in Yiddish and we’d follow the words as he used his pointer. Contrary to the Talmud Torah choir experience, he never gave us names or hit us. After he retired, Mrs. Udow took over and when I hoped to join the choir, she said, “Modechai, your voice is changing, perhaps another time.”
After the principal Chaver Herstein retired, Mr. Heilik who was previously at the Calgary Peretz Shul became our new principal. He was an interesting man and because of my ‘occasional’ naughty behaviour, I got to know him a little better than most students. He was an artist. His medium was oil painting and I remember, on one occasion, we were taken out of our class and brought to the auditorium. When we arrived, we saw that all four walls had been covered with his paintings. There were dozens of them. It was a full-blown exhibition of his work.
I bring this up because I became the class artist at Peretz and my teachers often ‘commissioned’ me to draw and colour huge murals in the hallway of the school. This gave me the opportunity to get out of class. Chaver Heilik would always come out of his office to check out my work. My artistry was far below his level, but he was always encouraging and interested in what I was doing.

In my day, we all graduated from Grade Seven and you had the choice of continuing in what was called Mittel Shul. These classes were held after 4 o’clock, after you finished English school. No one in my class went to Mittel Shul and we felt sorry for those who did as they arrived at four, just as we were leaving.
For me, and I’m sure others, the experience of attending Peretz Shul, wasn’t truly appreciated until after we graduated. The real world out there wasn’t as warm and friendly as it was at 601 Aikins. I do know that the school gave me the education that my Baba and other founders were hoping to achieve: an ability to speak Yiddish, a love for the language, Jewish history known as Yiddishe geshicteh and above all, an appreciation for the Jewish people and our incredibly rich journey. I also had my Peretz Shul family, the 12 or so students in my class that I spent 35 hours a week with for nine years. We all take something different away from the experience, but I can guarantee you, many of us, including my friend Moishe the ambassador, will always carry Peretz Shul memories with us for the rest of our lives.

Post script:
Ed. note: It didn’t take me too long to figure out who the “Moishe” was to whom Kinzey refers in his article. I was actually friends myself with “Moishe”, although I knew him better as Matthew Levin.
Matthew was always very independent-minded – even as a kid. That being said, he went on to an illustrious career in Canada’s diplomatic service. Among other posts he held, he was Canada’s Ambassador to Columbia, Cuba, and most recently Spain.
It was while he was Ambassador to Cuba that Matthew, along with his wife, Rosealba, played an instrumental role in helping Cuban Jews emigrate to Israel (since Israel and Cuba did not have diplomatic relations).
When I read Kinzey’s story I decided to send it to Matthew – before I outed him as the “Moishe” in the story. Matthew was pleasantly surprised to see that Kinzey mentioned him in a story and even further that he referred to him as “Moishe”.
In my email to Matthew I mentioned that the last time I had attempted to contact him was when Stephen Harper was Prime Minister and Matthew was Canada’s Ambassador to Cuba. At the time, some low level functionaries in what is known as Global Affairs Canada interceded and said that I would not be able to communicate directly with Matthew. Instead, I was told, I could submit any questions that I had to Global Affairs, they would vet them (no doubt looking for anything that might potentially embarrass the government, such as asking about Matthew’s boyhood years in Winnipeg).
So, when I reached out to Matthew – again, this time after reading Kinzey’s piece, I said that I didn’t know whether he would even receive my email since I suspected “apparatchiks” in the government would see it first – and probably attempt to prevent me from communicating with him directly – again.
I was surprised then, to receive a very warm response from Matthew – in which he explained that he is no longer under the supervision of government “apparatchiks”.
Here’s what Matthew Levin wrote to me, in part:
Wonderful to hear from you! I’m so glad you made the effort to reach out.

I finished my posting to Spain a couple of months ago and am now back in Ottawa and transitioning to retirement. So no more apparatchiks.

First of all, I hope you’re well and coping successfully with these strange times.

Your lovely message brings back all sorts of very fond memories. It’s a long time since anyone called me Moishe (often shortened to Moish back then). I never saw most of my Peretz Shul classmates after I left the school, as Kinzey recalls, at the start of Grade 5 (a long story). Kinzey was one of the very few I did see occasionally, including a few times when he was playing with Finjan. But most of the others I completely lost touch with. Now I sometimes wonder what has become of many of them. It’s really heartwarming to think that Kinzey (Martin at the time and I believe he was Mordechai in Yiddish, or maybe Mendel) remembered me as he was writing this story. Since you and I and our group of friends never called each other by our Yiddish names I’m surprised, but delighted, that you thought of me when you saw this reference to a Moishe.
Thanks so much for sending along Kinzey’s story. I’m sending you this reply before having read it, because I didn’t want to delay getting back to you, but I’ll certainly read it with great interest and undoubtedly pleasure. I really feel honoured and delighted to be included. If you’re in touch with Kinzey, please thank him and give him a big hug – virtual of course for now – from me.

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A Jewish Perspective on the Hidden Gems of Nuevo Vallarta and Puerto Vallarta

Nestled along Mexico’s Pacific coast, Nuevo Vallarta and its neighboring city, Puerto Vallarta, have become popular destinations for travelers seeking sun, sea and cultural experiences. For Jewish travelers, exploring these cities offers a unique blend of relaxation and discovery; from pristine beaches to vibrant local culture, here’s a perspective on the hidden gems these destinations offer.

Traveling to Nuevo Vallarta and Puerto Vallarta

Barceló Puerto Vallarta: A Tranquil Haven

Among the myriad of accommodations in the region, the Barceló Occidental Nuevo Vallarta (with bookings at stands out as a serene retreat. Situated on Mismaloya Beach, this resort combines traditional Mexican architecture with modern amenities. Its all-inclusive packages cater to families, couples and solo travelers, providing an ideal base for exploring both Nuevo Vallarta and Puerto Vallarta.

Exploring Nuevo Vallarta

Embracing Nature at El Cora Crocodile Sanctuary

Nature enthusiasts will appreciate El Cora Crocodile Sanctuary, located a short drive from Nuevo Vallarta. This sanctuary not only preserves native wildlife but also offers educational tours that delve into the region’s ecosystem. For Jewish travelers, it provides an opportunity to connect with nature while appreciating Mexico’s biodiversity.

Cultural Insight at the Marina Vallarta

The Marina Vallarta, known for its upscale ambiance and waterfront dining, offers a glimpse into local life. Jewish travelers can explore boutique shops and art galleries while enjoying a variety of international cuisines. The marina’s lively atmosphere during sunset, with boats bobbing gently in the marina and street performers entertaining passersby, creates a memorable experience.

Discovering Puerto Vallarta

Historic Exploration in the Zona Romántica

Puerto Vallarta’s Zona Romántica, also known as Old Vallarta, beckons history buffs and culture seekers. Cobblestone streets wind through quaint neighborhoods lined with colorful colonial architecture. Jewish travelers can visit the Zona Romántica’s eclectic art galleries, boutique cafes and the iconic Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe, offering a glimpse into the city’s rich cultural heritage.

Artistic Marvels at the Malecón

A stroll along the Malecón, Puerto Vallarta’s oceanfront promenade, reveals a treasure trove of sculptures and open-air art installations. From the whimsical Seahorse sculpture to the thought-provoking Millennium sculpture series, each artwork tells a story of Mexico’s artistic spirit. Jewish travelers can engage with local artists and appreciate the vibrant cultural tapestry that defines Puerto Vallarta.

Culinary Delights

Savoring Kosher-Friendly Cuisine

While kosher options are limited in Nuevo Vallarta and Puerto Vallarta, some restaurants and resorts offer kosher-friendly menus upon request. The culinary scene in both cities blends traditional Mexican flavors with international influences, ensuring there is something to satisfy every palate. Jewish travelers can indulge in fresh seafood ceviche, traditional tacos al pastor and refreshing aguas frescas while soaking in the coastal ambiance.

Community Engagement

Connecting with Local Jewish Communities

For Jewish travelers interested in community engagement, both Nuevo Vallarta and Puerto Vallarta host small Jewish communities. Synagogues and Jewish community centers welcome visitors seeking spiritual connection and cultural exchange. Engaging with local Jewish communities provides a deeper understanding of Mexican-Jewish heritage and fosters meaningful connections across cultures.

Final Note

Nuevo Vallarta and Puerto Vallarta offer Jewish travelers a blend of relaxation, cultural exploration and natural beauty. Whether basking in the sun on pristine beaches, exploring historic neighborhoods or savoring culinary delights, these cities provide a rich tapestry of experiences. With accommodations like the Barceló Puerto Vallarta offering comfort and convenience, travelers can immerse themselves in Mexico’s Pacific coast while appreciating its hidden gems from a unique perspective.

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Gambling Statistics Shine Light on Canadian Gambling Culture

Explore pivotal statistics that highlight Canada’s gambling culture. Get a concise overview of the trends shaping the nation’s betting landscape.

Canada’s gambling culture is as diverse as its landscape, and recent statistics shed light on this thriving sector. From coast to coast, Canadians engage in various forms of betting, each with its own set of trends and numbers. This article delves into the data, uncovering the patterns and preferences defining gambling nationwide.

Canadian Gambling Statistics

User penetration refers to the percentage of consumers engaging with a product or service beyond the expected audience. Despite a 47% decline in 2023, the online gambling industry is projected to expand.

By 2027, it’s forecasted that the gambling market will cater to 20.38 million individuals. This trend suggests an increasing preference among Canadians for online gambling over traditional brick-and-mortar casinos.

The industry boasted a 97% return on investment in 2022, outperforming land-based casinos, which only saw a 61% return. With the rising interest in online betting, Canada’s online casino industry is experiencing the highest user penetration rate.

What Is the Average Expenditure on Gambling by Canadians?

Many enjoy the thrill of the occasional game of chance. The fact that you can retain all of your earnings, as there are no taxes on gambling profits in Canada, adds to the allure of gambling. In Canada, winnings are subject to taxation only for professional gamblers with a sustained winning streak.

In recent years, the trend toward online casinos has changed. The pandemic-induced closures of land-based casinos accelerated this change. It’s a profitable industry, as 60% of Canadians say they spend money gambling each month.

Canadian gambling statistics:

  • Six out of ten Canadians have gambled.
  • The monthly average expenditure for gaming and gambling in Canada is $6.75.
  • A month’s worth of gaming expenses is reported by 63% of males and 57% of women.
  • According to 73% of Canadians, gambling-related issues have gotten worse in their region.

The Increasing Attraction to Online Casino Gambling in Canada

An increasing number of Canadians are using online casinos, particularly in the wake of the pandemic. They offer various benefits regular casinos do not and are more convenient. Over time, land-based casinos’ revenue has decreased due to the growing popularity of online gambling sites.

The pandemic shutdowns accelerated the drop. For instance, the land-based casinos in Alberta no longer make as much money as they once did. Consequently, the Albertan government opened an online casino, and other governments quickly adopted similar strategies.

Casino Games at Online Casinos in Canada

Online casinos in Canada offer various games that cater to different preferences. Some of the most popular casino games at Canadian online casinos include:

  • Slots: These are the most common and varied, with themes ranging from classic fruit machines to the latest online slot games with advanced graphics and features.
  • Table Games: Classics like blackjack, roulette, craps, and baccarat are available in multiple variations.
  • Live Dealer Games: These provide an immersive experience, allowing players to interact with real dealers and other players in real time.
  • Video Poker: A favourite for many, combining elements of slots and poker in a unique format.
  • Progressive Jackpots: Games that offer the chance to win life-changing sums of money with a single spin.
  • Canadian Legalities for Online Gambling Sites
  • Casinos are legal in Canada, but each province and territory has the authority to establish its gaming regulations and issue online gambling website licences. Saskatchewan is the only province that does not host multiple online gaming sites.
  • Authorities in British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec, and Manitoba issue licences without a specific requirement, but these online casinos must operate exclusively within their respective provincial borders. Online gaming sites seeking to operate beyond these borders need a special agreement.
  • In Canada, only land-based casinos face penalties; foreign operators can only function by obtaining local licenses. Although offshore casinos cannot legally target Canadian players, they can accept them.
  • Statistics on Gambling Addiction in Canada
  • While the majority of gamblers do so without experiencing issues, there are hazards and health issues associated with it for some people. Because of this, the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA) carries out studies and creates resources aimed at assisting Canadians in making wise decisions regarding their gambling, both generally and, in particular, high-risk scenarios, like when they’re using alcohol or other drugs.
  • Here are some key statistics on gambling addiction in Canada for the year 2024:
  • 64.5% of Canadians aged 15 or older actively participated in gambling activities within the past year.
  • 1.6% of Canadian gamblers, representing approximately 304,400 individuals, face moderate-to-severe gambling addiction risks.
  • Canadian males reported higher gambling participation and addiction risks compared to females.
  • Indigenous Canadians showed a higher tendency to gamble (72.4%) and experienced greater susceptibility to gambling problems (4.5%) than non-Indigenous people.
  • In Canada, responsible gambling is promoted through various programs and initiatives, ensuring that individuals engage in betting activities within their means and maintain control. The emphasis is on providing resources and support to prevent gambling addiction and encourage safe, enjoyable gaming experiences.
  • Reflecting on Canada’s Responsible Gambling Journey
  • The statistics we’ve explored offer a revealing glimpse into Canada’s gambling culture, highlighting both the widespread appeal and the responsible practices of Canadian bettors. As the industry evolves, it reflects the country’s commitment to balancing entertainment with economic benefit and social responsibility. The future of gambling in Canada seems poised to be driven by informed choices and a clear understanding of the risks and rewards involved.
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Caesars Windsor Reduces Operating Hours for Sports Betting Counter

Sports betting has rapidly evolved into a major attraction, drawing a diverse audience ranging from casual participants to dedicated enthusiasts, and its popularity is only increasing with the proliferation of online platforms. In particular, Canada has seen a notable rise in sports betting activities since the legalization of single-event sports betting in August 2021, which opened doors to a multitude of betting avenues, both in physical locations and online. 

The shift towards online sportsbooks has been especially significant, marking a notable change in the landscape of sports betting. Given the expansive range of online sportsbooks available to Canadians, experts like Neil Roarty provide critical reviews and comparisons that guide bettors through the complex array of online options. These sites delve into the nuances of each platform, evaluating everything from user interface and betting options to the perks and security features they offer (source:  

Despite the rising trend in online betting, traditional sportsbooks like those in casinos are adjusting to the new landscape. Caesars Windsor, for instance, has recently made significant changes to its sports betting services. Initially projected to increase job opportunities and enhance visitor footfall, thereby boosting various service-related positions within the casino, the reality has somewhat shifted. 

The casino’s CEO, Kevin Laforet, had expressed optimism at the sportsbook’s inauguration in January 2023, citing anticipated growth in employment opportunities due to expected higher traffic. This optimism was rooted in the broader economic benefits typically associated with casino expansions, such as increased employment for local and migrant communities including roles like dealers, bartenders, and security staff.

However, recent developments have seen Caesars Windsor recalibrating its approach to sports betting. According to a spokesperson from the casino, after a detailed review of betting trends at their facility, adjustments were necessary to align the sportsbook’s operations with actual guest preferences and patterns. 

As a result, the sportsbook has scaled back its operating hours to 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. each day, which has led to minor staffing changes. Importantly, all affected staff members have been retained, and the sportsbook continues to operate during peak times, especially during significant sporting events, with kiosk betting available 24/7.

Jessica Welman, editor of the Canadian Gaming Business, remarks on the overwhelming preference for online sports gambling over traditional brick-and-mortar sportsbooks. The convenience of placing bets via a smartphone or computer is a significant draw for many, enhancing the accessibility and appeal of online betting. 

Welman further noted that the market for online betting in Ontario has expanded consistently each quarter since its legalization, highlighting a robust growth trajectory that underscores the market’s potential.

However, the relationship between online gambling and its impact on physical casino revenues is complex and not well-documented. Sports betting reporter Greg Warren pointed out that most casinos do not specifically track how much of their revenue comes from sports betting as opposed to other gambling activities, which muddles the ability to analyze precise trends. 

Yet, experiences from the United States suggest that both in-person and online sportsbooks can experience growth simultaneously, indicating a synergistic relationship rather than a competitive one. According to Warren, the distinct experiences offered by online platforms and physical sportsbooks mean they can coexist and cater to different preferences.

Welman supports this view, suggesting that despite the convenience of online options, there is an enduring appeal for the physical experience of in-person betting. She argues that brick-and-mortar casinos provide a unique atmosphere that can’t be replicated online, serving as a draw for those who prefer the tangible excitement of a live betting environment. 

In line with its diverse offerings, Caesars Entertainment also maintains an online gaming app, which complements its physical sportsbook operations. This app is designed to offer users a seamless integration between the convenience of digital betting and the engaging atmosphere of in-person wagering. 

While specific details on the app’s impact on the casino’s overall business were not disclosed, it represents an integral part of Caesars’ strategy to bridge the gap between traditional and digital gambling experiences. This dual approach not only caters to a broader range of consumer preferences but also positions Caesars to capitalize on the growing trend of mobile and online betting.

As the landscape of sports betting continues to evolve, the interaction between online and in-person gambling platforms will undoubtedly remain a key area of focus for industry observers and participants alike. By maintaining a strong presence in both arenas, Caesars is well-equipped to adapt to changing consumer habits and technological advancements that have seen real money online casinos cornering many gambling markets worldwide, ensuring that it remains at the forefront of the gambling industry. 

This strategic integration highlights the potential for more synchronized growth and innovation within the gambling sector, shaping the future of how sports betting is experienced across different platforms.

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