Will Canada Pass a Senate Bill to Regulate Sports Betting Ads?

Senate Bill S-269, introduced by Senator Marty Deacon, aims to establish a national framework for regulating sports betting advertisements in Canada.

Canada’s race to pass Senate regulating gambling adverts continues.

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This legislation seeks to set limits on advertising reach and implement national standards to prevent problem gambling. However, with an election approaching, the bill’s future remains uncertain.

The legalization of single-event sports betting in Canada in 2021 enabled provinces to develop private markets for these services; however, Ontario is currently the only province to have done so. This legalization led to a surge in gambling-related advertisements, prompting concerns from sports fans and legislators alike.

A study by CBC’s Marketplace and UK researchers found that sports fans are exposed to gambling advertisements approximately three times per minute during sports broadcasts, which is what motivated Deacon to push for regulation.

Deacon, a member of the Independent Senators Group, noted that previous efforts to legalize gambling did not address the subsequent increase in advertising. She and other critics are particularly concerned about the impact on youth and those at risk of developing gambling problems.

Ontario’s Experience with Regulated Sports Betting

Ontario launched its regulated market for sports betting and online gambling in April 2022, and since then, sports betting has attracted a great deal of media attention due to the numerous advertising campaigns.

Senator Percy Downe is advocating for federal regulation of sports betting advertisements. He proposes a national framework to mitigate problem gambling. Ontario has already made regulatory adjustments, including restrictions on using athletes and celebrities in adverts to protect underage individuals.

Despite these changes, exceptions remain. For instance, Connor McDavid continues to appear in BetMGM ads, though now promoting responsible gambling. Deacon highlighted these exceptions as significant loopholes.

New Democrat MP Brian Masse, who supported the legalization of sports betting, expressed his preference for a more comprehensive approach from the beginning. Despite this, he supports the Senate’s current efforts to address the advertising issue.

Masse criticized Ontario’s approach to legalized sports gambling, suggesting a more gradual introduction would have been better. The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario has committed to continuously evaluating the market to address emerging risks.

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Limited Time for Parliamentary Approval

With approximately 16 months left before the next election in October 2025, time is limited for Parliament to pass Bill S-269. The bill must progress through the Senate and the House of Commons before an election call, which would dissolve the current legislative session.

Deacon believes the bill needs to reach the House by Christmas to have a chance of passing in this Parliament. There is general support for the legislation, but the timeline remains tight.

The governing Liberals have expressed their anticipation for the bill’s arrival in the House. Heritage Minister Pascale St-Onge acknowledged the widespread concern about the impacts of online gambling advertising on young people and other vulnerable groups.

The Bloc Québécois and Green Party also plan to review the bill when it reaches the House while the Green Party is still in the process of discussing the legislation within its caucus.


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