Ontario Extends Comment Period for Tougher iGaming Ad Standards

The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) is proposing a ban on athletes and celebrities in advertising and marketing for online casinos and sportsbooks, citing risks to children and youth.
19+ on smartphone blank screen in hand isolated on white, adults age only concept, over 19 plus only censored on mobile phone white screen, adult content Ontario Extends Comment Period for Tougher iGaming Ad Standards
May 12, 2023

[The AGCO has] identified advertising and marketing approaches that strongly appeal to persons who are under the legal gaming age through the use of celebrities and/or athletes. Regulators in Ontario have decided to extend the comment period for stakeholders to weigh in on a proposal to tighten advertising standards for iGaming in the province.

At issue is a proposal by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) to ban athletes and celebrities who appeal to children and youth from participating in advertising and marketing for sportsbooks and online casinos in Ontario.

The AGCO proposed the changes in mid-April and originally set a May 8 deadline for stakeholders to submit comments, but the regulator has since extended the deadline by one week — to Monday, May 15.

Many high-profile partnerships would come to an end, at least for Ontario customers, if the changes are enacted. Some recent pair-ups of note in the province include:

  • Auston Matthews — for Bet99
  • Connor McDavid and Wayne Gretzky — for BetMGM Sports Ontario
  • Paul Coffey, Stu Grimson, Mike Vernon, and the Trailer Park Boys — for PointsBet Canada

In its announcement of the proposal on April 13, AGCO said it had “identified advertising and marketing approaches that strongly appeal to persons who are under the legal gaming age through the use of celebrities and/or athletes.

“Concern regarding the potential harmful impact on the most vulnerable population, underage persons, remains high.”

Ontario Already a Highly Restrictive Space

The regulator’s move is controversial, to be sure.

Ontario was already considered one of the most restrictive markets for the iGaming industry to conduct advertising and marketing. The province is also one of only a few jurisdictions in the world that places restrictions on public advertising or bonuses and other inducements.

To get around those restrictions, operators in Ontario have turned to athletes and celebrities to try to draw in customers.

“Ontario operators can’t advertise or provide marketing materials outlining gambling inducements, bonuses, and credits,” according to a report by Sportsnet from early April.

“However, there are no limits regarding how much they can advertise overall, prompting many to enlist big-name athletes like Auston Matthews, Connor McDavid, and Andre De Grasse as ambassadors and spend millions on advertising campaigns, much to the chagrin of the general public.”

But the high visibility of advertising, particularly for Ontario sportsbooks, has raised the ire of locals. A grassroots campaign called Ban Ads For Gambling has materialized and hopes to enact such a ban.

“Harms from gambling include financial problems, stress to families, youth and children, mental health issues including addiction and even suicide — among other documented economic and social issues that negatively affect Canadians,” the group says on its website. The group also has a link to the Sportsnet report from April.

“Gambling ads, in both content and frequency, are particularly enticing to adolescents and other vulnerable persons — especially those struggling with gambling addiction.”

Shelly White, CEO of the non-profit (and Toronto-based) Responsible Gambling Council (RGC), told The Globe and Mail in a separate report last month that the organization supports the AGCO reviewing its standards.

White said such a review by the regulator is necessary because gambling usually starts in adolescence and increases into young adulthood — the same time frame that AGCO is trying to ban advertising with athletes and celebrities.

If you or someone you know has a gambling problem and wants help, call the Virginia Council on Problem Gambling (VACPG) helpline at 1-888-532-3500

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