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Ontario Enforces Ban on Celebrities in Gambling Advertisements

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The regulation prohibiting athletes and celebrities from featuring in online gambling advertisements has now been implemented in Ontario. The rule was one of the changes initially proposed by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) Last August to safeguard children and youth susceptible to such advertising content.

Starting yesterday, February 28, advertising and marketing for online gaming in Ontario are prohibited from featuring active or retired athletes except when advocating for practices linked to responsible gambling. The ban also covers celebrities, role models, social media influencers, entertainers, cartoon figures, and symbols who are deemed to have an appeal to minors.

According to the AGCO, determining who falls under these criteria broadly involves examining an individual's fan base, assessing audience demographics, and checking connections individuals may have to activities popular among minors.

The amendments align with AGCO’s commitment to prevent minors or high-risk individuals from getting targeted in online gambling advertising, marketing, and other public communications. Existing regulations prohibit gambling ads from being near locations like schools.

High Increase in Gambling Ads

Following the legalization of single-game sports betting in Canada in 2021, each province was given the autonomy to establish its own regulations for the industry.

Since the launch of the regulated gambling market in Ontario, there has been a huge increase in gambling advertisements, especially during major live sporting events.

For instance, during a 2023 playoff series game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Florida Panthers, about eight and a half minutes were allocated to online gambling advertisements.

In the market’s first year, more than $35 billion were placed in wagers, and $1.4 billion was collected in gross revenue. Prominent operators like DraftKings, FanDuel, and bet365 have made substantial investments in advertising to improve their brand awareness in Ontario.

CHMA Commends AGCO’s Policy

AGCO’s decision to implement the celebrity ban has generated praise from several quarters, including the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA).

With the gamification of online gambling, youth are especially at risk of gambling-related harms. These restrictions are a crucial first step in the regulatory action needed to reverse the alarming trends in online gambling among youth in Ontario. We encourage a public health approach to regulating iGaming. This includes implementing further restrictions on advertising and marketing until all advertising for iGaming is completely prohibited.

Camille QuennevilleCMHA Ontario spokesperson

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