Ontario: Sorting through the AGCO and iGO upper-management dance card

August 6, 2023 4:55 PM
Photo: Shutterstock
  • Mark Keast, CDC Gaming Reports
August 6, 2023 4:55 PM
  • Mark Keast, CDC Gaming Reports

Summer is in full bloom, so if there were going to be this many board-level moves at the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario and iGaming Ontario, the subsidiary of the AGCO, this was probably the time to get it all cleared up.

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People are on cottage decks with a cold one or on tee boxes at golf courses choosing a club to hit. In other words, they’re distracted, at least until Labour Day.

Still, back in mid-June, we were told by AGCO Chief Executive Officer Tom Mungham that an announcement on potential changes to the regulator’s Advertising Standards revolving around celebrity endorsement was a matter of weeks, not months. A deadline of May 15 was set for submissions of opinions and perspectives by stakeholders.

“There has been no shortage of attention and opinion on this issue across Canada and globally,” Mungham said then, adding that the AGCO received 38 responses to that consultation, from igaming and land-based operators and the charitable gaming sector to associations in the health sector, like the Canadian Mental Health Association.

No, there definitely hasn’t been a shortage of attention. The state of advertising and igaming has been a hugely discussed issue since the regulated market went live in April 2022. The sheer volume of igaming ads has been a topic of debate. That volume has never been an issue in this corner, but for others, like John Sewell, the former Toronto mayor who’s on the steering committee of the Campaign to Ban Advertising for Gambling advocacy group, it’s been a big issue.

“Gambling is registered as an addiction by the American Psychiatric Association,” Sewell told us. “It’s the only non-substance kind of addiction that they list. It’s clear it’s a very substantial problem. It’s just every time you’re trying to watch a game you are confronted with someone telling you to bet on something. We aren’t trying to ban gambling, just advertising.”

A lot of eyes watching this. Which brings us to all the recent AGCO and iGaming Ontario board-level shuffling.

First, Lalit Aggarwal announced July 18 that he was stepping down as chair of AGCO’s board of directors, saying he wanted to spend more time with his family. The board’s vice chair, Heidi Reinhart, took on the chair’s responsibilities in an interim role.

Three days later on July 21, Dave Forestell, who was chairman of the board of iGaming Ontario (and was also on the AGCO board), was named the permanent replacement for Aggarwal.

On July 31, Reinhart was appointed chair of iGaming Ontario, just a week or so after she was announced as the interim replacement for Aggarwal. She will, of course, replace Forestell.

Got all that? In addition, Mungham is set to retire this fall. As chair of the board, Aggarwal announced in March that the AGCO board had begun its search for Mungham’s replacement. We’re wondering how that’s going, with the AGCO and iGO board-level Texas Two-Step.

Is there any connection at all with the delay in the Advertising Standards announcement, because we’d all like to know what that direction is going to be.

This email response came from the AGCO spokespeople a few weeks ago when we asked for an update on the timing for an announcement. “Once the process is complete, if there are changes to Standards, this information will be provided to stakeholders and posted to our website.”

OK, sure, so you’ll let us know. In the meantime, we’re going back to the Muskoka chair. Just wake us up when you’re ready to announce something.