Operators in Ontario’s regulated iGaming sector are patiently waiting for clarification on the new betting advertisements standards. Meanwhile, the President of the Canadian Gaming Association, Paul Burns, has recently discussed the importance of advertising in a regulated marketplace. He also believes that operators have been focused on playing by the rules since the sector’s launch.
In April 2022, the Heartland Province became the first Canadian jurisdiction to open up its internet gaming model for private operators. However this led to an influx of betting ads from brands, and the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario had no other choice but to put some restrictions on the marketing. Thus, banning the use of pro athletes and celebrities from those ads.
Standards are Vague, says Burns
In an interview, Mr. Burns noted that advertising is an important fragment in a regulated market, as it is a privilege for the operators. He believes that since the launch of the market, all of the licensed operators have tried to play by the provincial standards and does not think that any of the operators’ marketing has been aiming to attract minors.
He described the debate between legal operators and people concerned with the betting volume of sports wagering ads on TV as a very emotional one. As mentioned, previously, the AGCO agreed to limit ads in the province and resorted to banning celebrities from participating in such promotions. However, the new standards come into effect on February 28, 2024.
Under the new standards, active or retired athletes cannot be used in advertising, unless it is to promote responsible gambling. This also applies to cartoon figures, symbols, role models, social media influencers, celebrities or entertainers, who would likely be expected to appeal to minors. However, this language is vague, and operators were left wondering what classifies as that.
Mr. Burns also deems the new protocols as confusing, as he and CGA continue to work on gathering more input from the association’s members for the AGCO. He said the timing of the changes was based on emotion and response and that it was not based on a lot of facts. Lastly, he shared the ads have already started to cool off and the market will soon start to mature.
MPP Calls for Further Action
However, MPP Lisa Gretzky does not agree that the ban on celebrities in ads is enough and calls for further measures. Previously, four members of Ontario’s NDP, including Ms. Gretzky submitted private members bills for an outright ban on all iGaming ads. She is hopeful that the government realizes the importance of the legislation and reviews it in a second reading.
In addition to that, it has not been a smooth sail for some operators and suppliers in Ontario’s iGaming sector, as since launch AGCO has issued multiple fines. One of those was Apollo Entertainment’s alleged breaches related to several violations of responsible gambling protocols. The company was imposed a CA$100,000 monetary fine by the regulator.