Less than one month after Ontario launched its regulated market for online poker, casino gaming, and sports betting, provincial regulators alleged that two operators have already run afoul of the province’s restrictive rules governing advertising and inducements.
In a statement Tuesday, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) alleged that Canadian subsidiaries of BetMGM and PointsBet had violated its Standards for Internet Gaming.
Specifically, the regulator alleged that BetMGM Ontario had violated Standards 2.04 and 2.05, while PointsBet Ontario had failed to comply with only the latter. It levied fines of $48,000 CAD (about $37,450 USD) to BetMGM and $30,000 CAD ($23,400 USD) to PointsBet.
PointsBet Issues Apology
The AGCO holds all registered operators to high standards of responsible gambling, player protection, and game integrity, and monitors their activities to ensure they are meeting their obligationsPointsBet Canada CEO Scott Vanderwel issued a mea culpa on Wednesday.
“On behalf of PointsBet Canada, I personally apologize for our error made in the interpretation of the standards set forth by the AGCO leading to this outcome. I am appreciative of the considerable efforts made by our local team and close partners to remediate the issue once we were notified.
“As I have stated in the past, we pride ourselves on our reputation as a compliant operator and believe in working collaboratively with regulators inside the legal framework. We are advocates for the legalization and legitimization of this industry and believe in the importance of creating a level playing field in which all operators contribute to safe, responsible play.”
BetMGM has not commented publicly on the issue. In a twist, the last statement the operator has posted on its website is an announcement from April 4 acknowledging that it had launched online casino gaming and sports betting in Ontario.
Details on Standards, Alleged Violations
Ontario is one of the only jurisdictions in the world to place restrictions on public advertising or bonuses and other inducements. It has also been described as highly prohibitive in many quarters of the industry.
Standard 2.04 requires operators to be truthful in their marketing, including for advertisements and promotions. Operators are not allowed to mislead players or misrepresent their products.
The AGCO alleged that BetMGM Ontario ran afoul of the standard when it posted a message to Twitter stating “the more money you put in per bet, the higher your chance is of winning” on April 10.
Meanwhile, Standard 2.05 prohibits advertising and marketing materials that include details on gambling inducements, bonuses, and credits — with two exceptions: Operators are allowed to post such information on their websites and through direct marketing with an active player’s consent.
AGCO took BetMGM to task for allegedly running afoul of Standard 2.05 on three occasions, and PointsBet for doing the same twice. According to the regulator:
- BetMGM Ontario posted details for a “$250K Launch Party” to Twitter twice, on April 4 and 11. The tweets included an offer where the first-place winner would receive a $100,000 casino bonus.
- A “Bellagio” advertisement was posted to Twitter by BetMGM three times, on April 4, 6, and 8. The ad included an offer of a $10 casino bonus in exchange for a $25 bet.
- An advertisement for a “Jimi Hendrix Free Spin Friday,” which included a chance to win 100 free spins in return for following the operator’s Twitter account, was tweeted by BetMGM twice on April 8.
- The regulator said that from April 4 to April 21, PointsBet Canada had posters inside GO Transit public trains, as well as in multiple products, with an inducement to play for free.
- PointsBet had similar posters at two GO Transit train stations from April 4 to April 17.
“The AGCO holds all registered operators to high standards of responsible gambling, player protection, and game integrity, and monitors their activities to ensure they are meeting their obligations under Ontario’s Gaming Control Act and the Standards,” said Tom Mungham, CEO of the AGCO.