Ontario Considers Ban on Celebrity Ads for Gambling
Ontario’s Alcohol and Gaming Commission (AGCO) is proposing new regulations that would prohibit the use of celebrities, including famous athletes, in advertisements for online gambling. The aim is to reduce the appeal of gambling to young individuals who are more susceptible to developing addictive behaviors.
Concerns Over Influencing Vulnerable Audiences
According to the AGCO, certain advertising and marketing strategies used in online gambling promotions strongly appeal to individuals below the legal gambling age, particularly with the involvement of celebrities and athletes. The proposed regulations aim to address these concerns and safeguard underage audiences from potential harm.
“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,” stated a blog post published by the commission.
Bruce Kidd, a professor emeritus of Sport & Public Policy at the University of Toronto and a prominent figure in The Campaign to Ban Advertising for Gambling, views the surge of online gambling ads in Ontario as a public health hazard.
Kidd and other campaigners argue that gambling ads, especially those featuring celebrities, can lead to various problems. These include financial difficulties, family strain, addiction, and mental health issues.
If finalized, these new rules would prohibit all gambling advertising that features active or retired athletes. These rules would also ban the use of cartoon characters and social media influencers. The ban would also be applicable to symbols that are likely to attract minors in gambling advertisements.
Canadians Displeased with Gambling Ads
Karl Subban, the father of NHL player P.K. Subban, has voiced his concern over gambling advertisements during hockey games, emphasizing their negative influence on young viewers. In addition, Subban, who is against exposing children to such ads, believes that their use of celebrities and sports superstars, like Auston Matthews and Wayne Gretzky, can mislead young people into thinking gambling is acceptable.
Subban has joined the Ban Ads for Gambling group, advocating for the removal of sports betting ads from hockey broadcasts. While he acknowledges that his adult children have the freedom to make their own choices, he intends to express his disapproval if any of them participate in such commercials.
A survey conducted by Ipsos indicates that Canadians are increasingly frustrated with the abundance of sports betting advertisements. The study reveals that 48% of Canadians believe there is an excessive amount of advertising for sports betting sites in Ontario. Additionally, 63% of respondents feel that there should be limitations on advertising for online sports betting and casino gambling.
AGCO’s Proposal and Potential Industry Impact
Notable NHL stars like Wayne Gretzky, Auston Matthews, and Connor McDavid have been featured in commercials and online ads. They also appeared on billboards promoting online gambling companies. However, when approached for comment by CBC’s The Fifth Estate during an investigation into sports betting in Canada, these hockey stars declined to discuss their affiliations with gambling brands.
The AGCO’s proposal to ban celebrity endorsements for sports betting in Ontario aims to shield young and vulnerable individuals from potential harm caused by gambling advertisements.
Until May 8, the AGCO was accepting feedback from stakeholders regarding the proposal before making any official changes. While the commission has not provided a specific publication date for the final standards, it has indicated that the new rules would come into effect three months after publication.
In April 2022, the United Kingdom implemented similar restrictions. Athletes, reality TV stars, and social media influencers appealing to young audiences are barred from gambling ads. In a recent development, clubs in the U.K.’s Premier League have also agreed to cease advertising gambling companies on their soccer jerseys.
However, the outcome of these proposed regulations could have implications not only for Ontario. It can also affect the wider North American gambling industry.
If successful, it might serve as a blueprint for implementing similar restrictions in the United States. Many sportsbooks in the U.S. rely on celebrity partnerships to promote their brands. And a ban on such endorsements could force them to revise their marketing strategies.
Overview of Ontario’s Gambling Market
The legal online gambling market in Ontario has experienced significant growth since its launch in April 2022. The market established itself as one of the top five iGaming jurisdictions in North America.
According to a report by iGaming Ontario, the industry generated approximately $1.4 billion. This is in total gaming revenue and saw approximately $35.6 billion in total wagers during its first year. Ontario was the first Canadian province to establish a legal and regulated market. It attracts over 1.6 million active player accounts across more than 40 operators associated with iGaming Ontario.
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