Ontario’s gaming commission has wasted little time in enforcing the province’s ban on inducements in online gambling advertising, announcing two penalties on Tuesday (May 3) against BetMGM and PointsBet.
In a statement, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) said it was fining BetMGM Canada C$48,000 and PointsBet Canada C$30,000 for marketing violations via Twitter and through poster displays.
The penalties announced on Tuesday (May 3) are subject to appeal, but nonetheless indicate that Ontario’s standards related to advertising and bonuses are an early enforcement priority for the regulator, with officials closely scrutinising operators’ marketing activities since launch of the province’s competitive online market on April 4.
BetMGM is alleged to have violated AGCO standards through three series of tweets in April that promoted welcome bonuses or offered free spins on a Jimi Hendrix-themed online slot game in return for following the company.
The AGCO also cited another tweet claiming that “the more money you put in per bet, the higher your chance is of winning,” which violated an Ontario standard that any advertising materials do not mislead consumers or imply that their chances of winning increase the more they spend.
Meanwhile, PointsBet is alleged to have violated the ban on gambling inducements in advertising through posters on trains and at train stations that included “an inducement to play for free.”
“The AGCO holds all registered operators to high standards of responsible gambling, player protection and game integrity, and monitors their activities to ensure they are meeting their obligations under Ontario’s Gaming Control Act and the standards,” CEO Tom Mungham said in a statement announcing the penalties.
Similar to rules in certain Australian states, AGCO standards adopted last year expressly forbid advertisements for online gambling from including any references to bonuses, free credits or other inducements that encourage players to gamble.
Operators can offer bonuses to players, but only through banners on their own websites or through direct marketing to customers who give their express consent to receive them.
The AGCO has published a guidance memo around the marketing standards, which are much more restrictive than those of U.S. states in particular.
A few days after the market launch in early April, the regulator updated its guidance to clarify that the prohibition on inducements “applies whether inducements are advertised directly or indirectly,” and would even cover the “display of promotional codes and/or general references that invite individuals or the general public to learn more about inducements on the gaming site.”
BetMGM and PointsBet are two of the 15 operators to launch in Ontario’s regulated market since April 4.
The operators of some 18 other online gaming brands, including Betway and World Series of Poker, have also received a registration from the AGCO but have yet to execute an accompanying commercial contract with the agency’s iGaming Ontario subsidiary.
Malta-based SkillOnNet on Monday (May 2) became the latest operator to become registered in Ontario, according to AGCO records, with the company planning to launch online casinos under its SkillOnNet, Spingenie and Slotsmagic brands.