40+ submissions delivered from industry stakeholders as Ontario’s regulator reviews gambling ad standards

May 29, 2023 8:43 PM
Photo: By Azadeh Kashani - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=86179457
  • Mark Keast, CDC Gaming Reports
May 29, 2023 8:43 PM
  • Mark Keast, CDC Gaming Reports

With the topic of restricting or banning gambling advertising front and center in Ontario, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) reports that they received approximately 40 submissions from industry stakeholders as they consider changes to the province’s Advertising Standards.

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The AGCO is considering a change to igaming Advertising Standards “to prohibit the use of athletes and celebrities who can reasonably be expected to appeal to children and youth from internet-gambling advertising and marketing in Ontario” over concerns about the impact on children or vulnerable people.

The AGCO had set May 15 as a deadline to hear perspectives from stakeholders about the issue. The AGCO issued this statement yesterday, “From the outset of Ontario’s new open, regulated, internet-gaming (igaming) market launch last year, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario has indicated that it would continuously assess the igaming landscape to effectively address new or emerging risks to Ontarians. Advertising and marketing approaches that include athletes and celebrities who can reasonably be expected to appeal to minors were identified.

“The AGCO has completed stakeholder consultations regarding changes we are proposing to igaming advertising standards. We customarily conduct such engagements before considering any regulatory changes. We received approximately 40 submissions from a diverse range of stakeholders and are now conducting a detailed review of all information received.

“We value direct stakeholder feedback to inform any changes we are considering to the AGCO’s Standards and we’re grateful to all who took the time to share their perspectives and expertise.

“Once the process is complete, if there are changes to Standards, this information will be provided to stakeholders and posted to our website.”

One of those organizations that submitted their feedback to the AGCO was the advocacy group Ban Advertising for Gambling.

“The problem is every time you put out an ad, it triggers something in a gambler’s mind saying, ‘OK, maybe I could win this one,’” said John Sewell, one of the members of the group’s steering committee. “And that seems to be a problem. We think trying to restrict gambling advertising doesn’t work very well. We think (banning advertising) has worked perfectly well for both tobacco and cannabis and we think it should work for gambling as well.”

The Canadian Mental Health Association also submitted a letter to the AGCO.

“We strongly urge you to prohibit all advertising for igaming, due to the detrimental impact it has on youth, vulnerable individuals, and their families.

“Youth and young adults are particularly vulnerable to at-risk gambling following exposure to advertisements.

“In Ontario, we’re seeing an alarming increase among students in grades 7 to 12 betting money on online gambling. Gambling-related harms, such as financial loss, mental-health issues, substance use, and suicide ideation, can have a devastating and long-lasting impact on the individual and their family.

“While we believe the AGCO’s proposed changes to the Registrar’s Standards restricting celebrity and athlete participation in promoting gambling are helpful, we encourage you to implement additional restrictions on advertising and marketing until all advertising for igaming is prohibited. Further to the changes you have proposed, we recommend additional measures to prevent gambling-related harms. We are outlining three key areas, and specific measures for action:

  • Minimize the disproportionate impact of gambling-related harms on vulnerable communities
  • Protect youth from advertising and promotion enticing them to gamble
  • Protect all Ontarians by taking a public health approach to regulating and measuring the impact of igaming.”

Those on the other side of the argument argue that an industry, now regulated, already has standards and regulations around advertising that are very lengthy in terms of what can be advertised and how it is advertised. False messages can’t be promoted and the industry doesn’t target minors. Plus, there are other guardrails, such as operators being required to monitor player’s behavior for risk.

No specific timeline has been set by the AGCO on when they anticipate making any decisions on the issue.