Canadian symposium highlighted by data on public perceptions of online gaming

December 6, 2023 8:56 PM
Photo: Canadian Gaming Association
  • Mark Keast, CDC Gaming Reports
December 6, 2023 8:56 PM

The Canadian Gaming Association (CGA) on Tuesday formally launched its new Commitment and Strategy to Promote Player Health and Wellbeing program with an industry symposium in Toronto, where the latest Ipsos research on public perceptions of online gambling in Ontario was a highlight of the day.

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Sean Simpson, senior vice president of Ipsos Public Affairs and Corporate Reputation, talked to the audience at MNP LLP, composed of operators, regulators, broadcasters, representatives from professional sports leagues, and people from the Responsible Gambling Council, about the context in which they conducted their study, done in tandem with the CGA.

That included a lack of public information about changes to the online-gaming industry in 2022 (the year the regulated market went live in Ontario), an overload of advertising that has annoyed some customers, emerging reputational challenges for the industry, research needed to fill knowledge gaps, and finding the right path forward. Ipsos conducted the online survey of 1,502 Ontarians ages 19 and older between Nov. 17 and 21.

“One of the curious things that happened with igaming is, I don’t think the public really understood what changed and there was no real education campaign around it,” Simpson said. Due to that lack, a “black hole” or void of information about the province’s regulatory framework developed, along with a need to communicate with and build more trust among Ontarians. “As a result, there’s a bit of a reputation deficit and that creates challenges,” he added. “A knowledge gap is a dangerous thing.”

Like with the energy drink and cannabis industries, Simpson added, the perception of what people think is going on gets blown out of proportion. “We think everybody’s out there gambling online. The truth is it’s far from that.”

Simpson said the research shows only around one in 10 of the population in Ontario is gambling at least once a week. Most people are playing modestly. “As a result of being a relatively niche market within Ontario, familiarity with online betting and online gambling is actually quite low,” Simpson said.

Some highlights from the study:

Online gambling represents a small percentage of gamblers. Four percent buy or play Ontario lottery, or OLG, tickets daily, 11% a few times a week, 14% once per week; 4%, 5%, and 4%, respectively, play online-casino games with real money; 3%, 6%, and 4%, respectively, bet on sports online with real money; 3%, 4%, and 4%, respectively, gamble in person in casinos).

Familiarity with online betting and gambling is low. Twenty percent know the OLG “very well,” 36% “know a fair amount,” 32% “know just a little”; 12%, 27%, and 40% for physical in-person casino gambling; 11%, 16%, and 31% for online betting and gambling.

Betting ads are being seen, but not widely. Forty-three percent have seen igaming ads on television in the last 30 days; 34% online, 19% sports in-game marketing; 18% sports in-game commentators/analysts; 6% some other place.

There is little awareness that online-gambling and sports-betting advertising is regulated by government. Thirty-six percent say it’s regulated by government, 24% say it’s up to advertisers and media companies; 40% didn’t know either way.

Confusion exists around unregulated sites. Sixty-five percent were aware of a “black market” of unregulated  igambling and sports-betting sites; 34% said they know how to tell a regulated platform apart from one that’s unregulated.

A minority (46%) say they want more regulation of igaming advertising (43% among frequent sports bettors, 39% among online players).

Trust comes with awareness of regulatory framework. Fifty-nine percent saw the OLG as total trustworthy, 39% fairly trustworthy, 20% very trustworthy; 40%, 29%, and 11%, respectively, for in-person casino; 30%, 22% and 8%, respectively, for online betting and gambling.

“Familiarity breeds favorability,” Simpson said. “The more someone knows about you, the more likely they are to trust you.”

The online gaming industry needs to get better control of their narrative, he added.

The two-day symposium wrapped up today at MNP LLP, with a session for industry leaders on navigating the regulatory landscape, featuring a panel discussion with Manav Bhargava, Lawyer & Head of the India desk for Segev LLP, along with David Phillips, COO of AGCO, and Mitchell Davidson, Chief of Staff for iGaming Ontario.

The CGA said the objective of their new program is facilitating optimal player and community health and wellbeing with igaming.

Also speaking yesterday was Dr. Karin Schnarr, new CEO and registrar of the AGCO, who told the audience the regulator is “deeply committed to protecting player welfare and player health.”

She added that the AGCO has completed its consultations with industry stakeholders regarding new advertising standards revolving around the issue of the use of athletes and celebrities with an appeal to minors and last week the AGCO issued a summary to consultation participants. The AGCO announced in August that the advertising standards were updated to prohibit the use of athletes in ads and restrict the use of celebrities.

The AGCO will release a final guidance document early in the new year, leading up to the updated standards coming into effect on Feb. 28, 2024.

An update on a new national advertising code for gaming that the CGA is developing with Advertising Standards Canada was also part of the presentation. Catherine Bate, president and CEO of Ad Standards, told the audience that Q1 2024 is the target for a near-final draft of the code.

“From land-based casino operators to online operators, there’s a strong commitment to healthy play and ensuring sustainable customers,” said CGA president and CEO Paul Burns.