'Pro'-hibition on athletes and celebrities in iGaming Advertising

4 minute read
28 February 2024

Beginning February 28, 2024, gaming operators in Ontario will have to rethink their marketing and advertising strategies. The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario ("AGCO") has published updates to the Registrar's Standards for Internet Gaming (the "Standards"), which now prohibit the use of athletes, celebrities and other public figures that appeal to minors in iGaming advertising and marketing in Ontario.

What's new?

This change comes following consultations with key industry stakeholders, including mental health organizations, responsible gambling experts, gaming operators, broadcast and marketing groups, as well as the public. It marks a decisive step by the AGCO to safeguard vulnerable demographics from the allure of gambling. Two of the most significant updates to the Standards that operators will need to consider moving forward are:

  1. Expanded restrictions on use of figures and symbols: The Standards now prohibit the use of cartoon figures, symbols, role models, social media influencers, celebrities and entertainers who would likely be expected to appeal to minors. This is significantly broader than the previous language, which simply prohibited the use of figures and symbols that have a primary appeal to minors.
  2. New restrictions on use of athletes: The Standards now prohibit the use of both active and retired athletes for iGaming advertisement purposes, except when used for the exclusive purpose of advocating for responsible gambling practices.

How do the changes impact gaming operators?

These updates signify a shift towards even more responsible marketing practices within the iGaming industry in Ontario. Not only will navigating this transition pose challenges for operators, who must now rethink their marketing strategies and find innovative ways to attract players, but it will also affect advertising and promotional efforts across live-game broadcasts, social media channels and other sports media outlets.

That said, this shift presents operators in Ontario with a significant opportunity to enhance their reputation and foster trust among consumers. By prioritizing responsible gambling practices, operators can effectively mitigate the risks associated with excessive gambling behaviours, thereby contributing to a safer and healthier gambling environment.

Consumers are increasingly conscious of the social impact of their choices, and by aligning with responsible gambling principles, operators can attract a more discerning audience that values ethical business practices. Ultimately, promoting responsible gambling not only fulfills regulatory requirements but also aligns with broader societal expectations, positioning operators as responsible corporate citizens invested in the welfare of their players and the community at large.

Indeed, since the Ontario iGaming market opened in April 2022, the AGCO has been quick to issue monetary penalties for alleged advertising and inducement infractions. As then stated by Tom Mungham, the AGCO CEO and Registrar, the AGCO "expects all registered operators to achieve and maintain the high standards of responsible gambling, player protection and game integrity. The AGCO will continue to monitor these gaming sites' activities, and ensure they are meeting their obligations under Ontario's Gaming Control Act and the Standards."

Collaborating with experienced legal counsel will enable operators to remain compliant with these regulatory changes and minimize exposure to fines, penalties, or the potential revocation of their operator's license.

For any inquiries or assistance in navigating through the intricacies of these new Standards and the Ontario iGaming market generally, please reach out to the Gowling WLG Gaming Law Group.

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