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Ontario’s Bold Move: Celebrities and Athletes Banned from Gambling Ads

Posted September 26, 2023
Web Master

The AGCO (Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario) has revised its guidelines to disallow the inclusion of athletes and celebrities in marketing campaigns related to online gaming, effective from February 28, 2024.

The changes to the Registrar’s Standards for Internet Gaming also limit the promotion of figures likely to attract a minor audience. The modifications come as the AGCO recognizes the potential risks to individuals below the legal age for gaming.

The updated norms specify that registered iGaming businesses in Ontario are prohibited from featuring active and retired athletes in their promotional materials, except in campaigns solely intended to promote responsible gambling practices.

Tom Mungham, the Registrar and Chief Executive Officer at AGCO, stated:

“Given the considerable impact that athletes and celebrities have on children and young adults, additional precautions are being instituted to protect the younger population in Ontario from online gaming advertisements featuring such individuals.”

Enhanced Safeguards for Minors

Following a review of the regulated iGaming market’s inaugural year in Ontario, the AGCO has identified that marketing strategies employing individuals with appeal to minors pose potential risks. Before finalising the changes, the Commission consulted various stakeholders in April 2023, including mental health organizations, public health experts, responsible gambling specialists, gaming operators, and the general public.

The newly instituted regulations further restrict the usage of role models and symbols that could appeal to minors. This amplifies the existing standard with previously limited content with a “primary appeal to minors.”

Ongoing Regulatory Oversight

As part of its governance role, the AGCO continually assesses emerging risks in the sectors it oversees and updates its standards accordingly. The AGCO Standards for Internet Gaming revisions, set to be implemented on February 28, 2024, include various clauses aimed at preventing targeted advertising towards high-risk, underage, or self-excluded individuals.

The new standards further limit marketing communications to known high-risk players and prohibit exploiting the vulnerabilities of such individuals. Following its responsibilities, the AGCO continually scrutinizes and pinpoints new challenges within the industries it regulates, amending its guidelines as necessary to mitigate these issues.

📒 Section 2.03: Marketing materials and communications shall neither target nor knowingly be disseminated to high-risk individuals, those under the legal gambling age, or persons who have self-excluded from gambling activities. This stipulation is also applicable to providers related to the gaming industry.

The modified AGCO Standards for Internet Gaming are scheduled to take effect on February 28, 2024. Below are the enhanced and emphasised clauses:

  • Advertising content must not employ themes or language primarily designed to attract minors.
  • Advertisements must not be displayed on billboards or other outdoor platforms located adjacent to educational institutions or other areas frequented mainly by minors.
  • Promotional material should not feature cartoon characters, symbols, role models, influencers, celebrities, or entertainers who are likely to be attractive to minors. (Amended Requirement)
  • The inclusion of active or retired athletes in advertising and marketing is prohibited unless the primary intent is to promote responsible gambling practices. (New Requirement)
  • Individuals appearing to be minors are not to be used in any gaming-related promotional activities. Advertising must also not appear in mediums primarily directed at children or where a significant portion of the audience is expected to be minors.
  • Marketing should not exploit the vulnerabilities, aspirations, gullibility, lack of experience, or knowledge of individuals potentially at high risk. It should also not misleadingly promote the merits of gambling.
  • Efforts to lure potentially high-risk individuals are prohibited. Appropriate measures must be in place to restrict marketing communications directed at identified high-risk individuals. (Amended Requirement)

These updated guidelines reflect AGCO’s ongoing commitment to responsibly regulating the gaming industry, especially concerning vulnerable populations.