Ontario Regulator, Stakeholders Begin Discussions Around New Ad Guidelines

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The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario has begun conversations with stakeholders concerning the new sports betting and gambling advertising standards it rolled out in August. Those new standards, which will go into effect in February, prohibit the use of celebrities and athletes in advertising and marketing, and operators have already been vocal in saying that they’d like more clarity on how celebrities and athletes will be defined, in addition to other issues.
Last week, the AGCO met with representatives from DraftKings, FanDuel, and PointsBet, and has plans to meet with broadcast partners, including the CBC, Bell, and Rogers, according to Gaming News Canada (GNC).
“Guidance on how to comply [with the rules], that’s what we’re looking for,” Canadian Gaming Association president Paul Burns told GNC. “We’re grateful to have entered into this dialogue, and from what I’ve heard so far, it’s been a good exercise. Everyone accepts the premise that we don’t want advertising that influences minors.”
Celebrities and athletes have been highly visible on the sports betting landscape in Ontario since wagering went live there in April 2022. The most notable athletes in sports betting advertising are hockey legend Wayne Gretzky and Edmonton Oiler Connor McDavid, who are partnered with BetMGM, and Toronto Maple Leaf Auston Matthews, who represents Bet99.
A ban on using anyone or anything, including cartoon characters, that “would likely appeal to minors” is also included in the new rules.
The AGCO has not provided any kind of timeline for when it will provide more clarity, but told GNC via email that “we’ve received inquiries and requests for clarification from various groups that will be required to comply with the updated standards. As part of our collaborative approach and in an effort to offer additional support, the AGCO will engage with these groups to gain a comprehensive understanding of their questions. Following these meetings, we will publish additional guidance to help registered operators comply with the updated standards.”
In other news …
The AGCO last week fined PointsBet $150,000 for falling short of the province’s responsible gambling regulations. According to an AGCO notice, a player lost more than $500,000 over three months, and PointsBet failed to intervene. Though the player was flagged within PointsBet’s system as high risk, the company did not contact the player to discuss options or cut the player off.

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In a press release, the AGCO wrote that PointsBet did not “enforce the required 24-hour cooling-off period when the player cancelled their per-day deposit limit” and continued to send the player promotions even though the player “withdrew consent” to receive such mailings. Over time, the company deposited $35,500 in promotional play into the player’s account.

The Registrar of the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) has issued a fine of CA$150,000 (£88,884/€101.811/US$108,592) to PointsBet Canada for breaching responsible gambling rules in the province https://t.co/jbGWebuY6J pic.twitter.com/vWPJmMSUXZ
— iGB (@iGamingBusiness) November 10, 2023

“In Ontario, iGaming operators have an obligation to proactively monitor their patrons’ play for signs of high-risk gambling, and to take appropriate actions to intervene and reduce the potential for gambling related harms,” AGCO CEO and Registrar Karin Schnarr said via press release. “The AGCO will continue to focus on player protection by holding all registered operators to these high standards.”
To that end, the Canada Gaming Association last week announced the launch of its “Commitment and Strategy to Promote Player Health and Wellbeing” program, according to CDC Gaming. The industry group will launch the program at an event on Dec. 5 that will include a workshop around responsible gambling standards for the CGA and how the group will develop a national advertising code.

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