Children and youth are heavily influenced by the athletes and celebrities they look up to. We’re therefore increasing measures to protect Ontario’s youth by disallowing the use of these influential figures to promote online betting in Ontario. Regulators in Ontario announced Tuesday that athletes, whether active or retired, will be banned from participating in any advertising or marketing that promotes igaming in the province.
The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) also said it had tightened its standards covering the use of celebrities who primarily appeal to children and youth in such campaigns to support igaming. The new restrictions will take effect on February 28, 2024.
All athletes will still be allowed to participate in advertising and marketing that promotes responsible gambling practices.
“Children and youth are heavily influenced by the athletes and celebrities they look up to,” Tom Mungham, who serves as CEO and registrar for the regulator, said in a statement. “We’re therefore increasing measures to protect Ontario’s youth by disallowing the use of these influential figures to promote online betting in Ontario.”
Requirements Under Standard 2.03 Expanded
The changes are not a surprise. AGCO first proposed them in mid-April and extended the public comment period to May 15 to give stakeholders additional time to submit comments.
The AGCO said that after the province’s regulated igaming market had been open for one full year, it recognized that advertising and marketing that included athletes and certain celebrities posed potential harm to persons below the age of 21, the legal age to gamble in the province. The regulator said it hoped to reduce the risk toward minors by enacting changes to its registrar’s standards.
Specifically, the regulator amended Standard 2.03, one of its sets of rules governing marketing and advertising. The standard stipulates that materials and communications for both must not target high-risk, underage, or self-excluded persons.
The regulator made additions to two existing requirements under Standard 2.03 and made one entirely new requirement.
The AGCO said advertising and marketing for online poker, casino gaming, or sports betting in Ontario must not “use or contain cartoon figures, symbols, role models, social media influencers, celebrities, or entertainers who would likely be expected to appeal to minors.” The regulator added the words “use or” to this requirement, as well as “social media influencers” and the part about the appeal to minors.
The regulator also said operators must not “entice or attract potentially high-risk players. Instead, measures shall be in place to limit marketing communications to all known high-risk players.” The AGCO used the word “measures” to replace “precautions,” which was used in the previous standard.
New to the list of requirements is the one that covers athletes. AGCO will now prohibit the “use of active or retired athletes, who have an agreement or arrangement made directly or indirectly between an athlete and an operator or gaming-related supplier, in advertising and marketing except for the exclusive purpose of advocating for responsible gambling practices.”
Left unchanged are five minimum requirements for that advertising and marketing materials and communications to support igaming shall not:
- Be based on language or themes that primarily appeal to minors
- Appear on billboards or other signage adjacent to a school or other locations frequented by youth
- Include people who either are or appear to be minors
- Be disseminated across various forms of media that target minors or where it would be reasonable to assume that most of the target audience would be minors
- Exploit any potentially high-risk person, including those inexperienced with igaming, or to extoll the virtues of igaming in any form
The moves are controversial, considering Ontario is already considered one of the world’s most restrictive markets for the igaming industry in terms of advertising and marketing. Ontario is also one of only a few jurisdictions worldwide that places restrictions on public advertising or bonuses and other inducements.