Ontario Bans Athletes From Advertising Sports Betting

As of Feb. 28, 2024, all active or retired athletes are barred from participating in advertising and marketing campaigns for Internet Gaming in Ontario, except when advocating for responsible gambling practices. A new regulation prohibiting the use of athletes and celebrities in advertisements promoting online gambling in Ontario has taken effect.

Announced by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) last summer, the measure aims to protect children and youth from potentially harmful advertising content associated with online gambling.

Similar restrictions also extend to the use of celebrities, role models, social media influencers, entertainers, cartoon characters, and symbols that are likely to appeal to minors. The AGCO determines this based on factors such as an individual’s fan base, audience demographics, and their association with activities popular among minors.

These changes align with the AGCO’s ongoing focus on avoiding targeting minors or high-risk individuals in advertising, marketing, or other public communications. Additionally, regulations prohibit gambling advertisements from being placed near locations such as schools. Following the legalization of single-game sports betting in Canada in 2021, each province has been tasked with regulating the industry independently, with little to no involvement from the federal government.

Since legalization, there has been a noticeable surge in online gambling advertisements, especially during major live sporting events. For instance, during a 2023 playoff series game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Florida Panthers, approximately eight and a half minutes of advertisements were dedicated to online gambling.

The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), a vocal supporter of the celebrity ban, praised the AGCO’s decision in a statement released Wednesday. According to CMHA Ontario spokesperson Camille Quenneville, the gamification of online gambling poses significant risks to youth, making these restrictions a critical initial step in addressing the concerning trends in online gambling among Ontario’s youth.

However, CMHA argues that the restrictions should be expanded to be broader in its ambit. The organization proposes that athletes be prohibited from participating in advertisements promoting responsible gambling practices, and they oppose operators sponsoring segments in broadcast programming.

“We advocate for a public health approach to regulating iGaming,” Quenneville emphasized, “which includes implementing additional restrictions on advertising and marketing until all iGaming advertising is completely prohibited.”

According to Ontario iGaming’s third-quarter review report between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31, 2023, approximately $17.2 billion worth of wagers were placed through Ontario iGaming, marking a 21% increase from the previous quarter and generating approximately $658 million in total gaming revenue.

More: Ontario Sports Betting | Mobile Sportsbooks | Sports Betting Sign-Up Bonuses

Ban Implemented After Public Consultation

In April, the AGCO conducted consultations regarding its proposal for the ban and received submissions from various stakeholders, including mental health organizations, gambling experts, gaming operations, and the general public. In a report, the AGCO stated that its proposal was prompted by significant criticism from advocates, experts, and parents regarding the noticeable increase in online gambling advertisements, particularly during live sports events.

For instance, during a 2023 playoff series game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Florida Panthers, nearly eight and a half minutes of advertisements were dedicated to online sports gambling. Sports betting was legalized in Canada in Aug. 2021. On April 4, 2022, Ontario became the first province in Canada to expand its sports betting market by officially permitting single-event bets.

The AGCO explained in a statement that after the first year of Ontario’s regulated internet gaming market, it identified that advertisements featuring athletes and celebrities appealing to children posed potential harm to those under the legal gambling age. Its revised advertising standards prohibit Ontario internet gaming operators from utilizing active or retired athletes in their marketing unless they are promoting responsible gambling practices.

Ontario operators are no longer allowed to advertise or provide marketing materials promoting gambling inducements, bonuses, and credits. Before the announcement, there were no limitations on how much they could advertise overall, leading many to enlist prominent athletes as ambassadors and spend millions on advertising campaigns.

Senator Spearheads Celebrity Ad Ban

Canadian Senator Marty Deacon, who introduced federal legislation in June aimed at banning athletes and celebrities from sports betting advertisements across the nation spent most of her career as a sports official and coach before taking office. She expressed her support for the AGCO’s action in an emailed statement.

“While it’s a positive step forward, I believe they could have gone further,” remarked Deacon, who represents Waterloo as an independent and has coached athletes participating in the Olympics, Commonwealth Games, and Pan Am Games. The senator advocated for the province to restrict gambling advertisements on television to specific times of the day.


About the Author
Nikhil Kalro

Nikhil Kalro

Nikhil Kalro covers the sports betting industry and revenue reporting at Gaming Today. Much of his work analyzes state revenue information, including betting activity and revenue for individual states and sportsbook operators. In addition, Nikhil provides news updates on the gambling industry itself, including product launches and legal issues. Nikhil’s previous experience includes five years with ESPN.

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