AGCO To Ban Athletes In Ontario's Internet Gaming Ads

Published: September 5, 2023 02:04 pm EDT

The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) has updated the Registrar’s Standards for Internet Gaming to prohibit the use of athletes in internet gaming (igaming) advertising and marketing in Ontario. The standards have also been strengthened to restrict the use of celebrities who would likely be expected to appeal to minors. These new restrictions will come into effect on Feb. 28, 2024.

Following the first year of Ontario’s open, regulated igaming market, the AGCO identified advertising and marketing approaches that use athletes, as well as celebrities with an appeal to minors, as a potential harm to those under the legal gaming age and is taking this step to reduce the risk. In April 2023, the AGCO held consultations on its proposal to ban such ads and received submissions from a broad range of stakeholders including mental health and public health organizations, responsible gambling experts, gaming operators, broadcast and marketing groups, and the public.

Following these consultations, the AGCO has determined that prohibiting the use of athletes and restricting celebrity endorsements would help safeguard children and youth who can be particularly susceptible to such advertising content.

The amended standards will prohibit registered Ontario igaming operators from using athletes, whether active or retired, in igaming marketing and advertising, except for the exclusive purpose of advocating for responsible gambling practices. These amended standards also restrict the use of celebrities, role models, social media influencers, entertainers, cartoon figures, and symbols that “would likely be expected to appeal to minors.” This broadens and strengthens the existing standard that, prior to this change, prohibited the use of advertising and marketing content with a “primary appeal to minors.”

“Children and youth are heavily influenced by the athletes and celebrities they look up to,” said Tom Mungham, Registrar and CEO, AGCO. “We’re therefore increasing measures to protect Ontario’s youth by disallowing the use of these influential figures to promote online betting in Ontario.”

As part of its mandate, the AGCO monitors and identifies emerging risks in the sectors it regulates and updates its standards to address them.

The additions to the AGCO Standards for Internet Gaming, which come into effect Feb. 28, 2024, are bolded and underlined below.

2.03 – Advertising, marketing materials and communications shall not target high-risk, underage or self-excluded persons to participate in lottery schemes, shall not include underage individuals, and shall not knowingly be communicated or sent to high-risk players. (Also applicable to Gaming-Related Suppliers)

Requirements – At a minimum, materials and communications shall not:

1. Be based on themes, or use language, intended to appeal primarily to minors. 
2. Appear on billboards or other outdoor displays that are directly adjacent to schools or other primarily youth-oriented locations.  
3. Use or contain cartoon figures, symbols, role models, social media influencers, celebrities, or entertainers who would likely be expected to appeal to minors. [This requirement has been changed]
4. Use active or retired athletes, who have an agreement or arrangement made directly or indirectly between an athlete and an operator or gaming-related supplier, in advertising and marketing except for the exclusive purpose of advocating for responsible gambling practices. [This requirement is new]
5. Use individuals who are, or appear to be, minors to promote gaming. 
6. Appear in media and venues, including on websites, and in digital or online media, directed primarily to minors, or where most of the audience is reasonably expected to be minors. 
7. Exploit the susceptibilities, aspirations, credulity, inexperience or lack of knowledge of all potentially high-risk persons, or otherwise extoll the virtues of gaming. 
8. Entice or attract potentially high-risk players. Instead, measures shall be in place to limit marketing communications to all known high-risk players. [This requirement has been changed]

About iGaming in Ontario

The Government of Ontario worked with the AGCO and iGaming Ontario (iGO), its internet gaming subsidiary, to establish an open internet gaming (igaming) market that allows eligible private gaming operators, registered with the AGCO and under contract with iGO, to participate in Ontario’s regulated igaming market. This first-of-its-kind framework in Canada was launched on April 4, 2022, and has offered Ontarians more choice, while protecting consumers and capturing an important new revenue stream for the province.  

A key objective of Ontario’s regulated igaming market is to create a safe, competitive and well-regulated igaming environment for Ontarians. As a result, the ACGO established a comprehensive, outcome based regulatory framework for igaming operators and gaming related suppliers. As part of its mandate, the AGCO monitors and identifies emerging risks and, where necessary, updates the Registrar’s Standards to mitigate risk.


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