As the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) considers changes to the province’s advertising standards, the agency confirmed Tuesday (May 30) that it had received more than three dozen submissions from industry stakeholders concerning the proposed changes to ban the use of athletes to promote online gambling.
The AGCO, since early April, has been engaging stakeholders over proposed changes to its internet gaming standards, with “the goal of further minimizing potential harm to youth and children.”
Included in those proposed changes is a prohibition on advertisements that “use athletes, whether active or retired, who have an agreement made directly or indirectly between an athlete and an operator or gaming-related supplier.”
The new rule would also expand restrictions on celebrity endorsers in general, changing the standard from prohibiting the use of a celebrity “whose primary appeal is to minors” to a broader “who would reasonably be expect to appeal to minors.”
The proposed change would further ban involvement of “social media influencers, celebrities, or entertainers” who would be reasonably expected to appeal to minors to an existing list that includes “cartoon figures, symbols, [or] role models.”
“From the outset of Ontario’s new open, regulated internet gaming market launch last year, the (AGCO) has indicated that it would continuously assess the iGaming landscape to effectively address new or emerging risks to Ontarians,” the regulatory agency said in an email.
“Advertising and marketing approaches that include athletes, as well as celebrities that can reasonably be expected to appeal to minors were identified.”
The AGCO had set May 15 as a deadline to hear perspectives from stakeholders about the issue.
“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.”
The agency confirmed in an email Tuesday that it had received approximately 40 submissions from a diverse range of stakeholders and was now conducting a detailed review of all information received.
The AGCO said it would not be publishing comment letters, but recognized that some organizations “such as the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), have chosen to make their submissions publicly available.”
In a four-page letter to the AGCO dated May 10, the CMHA urged regulators 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,” wrote Camille Quenneville, CEO of CMHA, which has 27 branches across Ontario. “In Ontario, we’re seeing an alarming increase among students in Grades 7 to 12 betting money on online gambling.”
Quenneville wrote that although the AGCO’s proposed changes to restrict celebrity and athlete participation in promoting gambling were helpful, “we encourage you to implement additional restrictions on advertising and marketing until all advertising for iGaming is prohibited.”
The AGCO said it will not be publishing submissions that “external groups generously shared with us for the purposes of our stakeholder engagement.”
Once the consultation process is complete and if there are any changes to the advertising standards, the AGCO will reach out to stakeholders and post the changes on its website. Currently, the AGCO has not issued a specific timeline for releasing any decision on the issue.