The province of Ontario has formally prohibited the utilization of athletes and famous personalities who might be attractive to minors in digital gambling promotions. Although this prohibition has been generally welcomed, certain detractors, including the Opposition NDP, a Canadian senator, and proponents for more stringent regulations, contend that it does not adequately safeguard susceptible individuals from gambling addictions.
● Proponents and scholars have expressed apprehensions about the surge of sports wagering promotions since Ontario authorized independent digital gambling platforms last year.
● They contend that this surge could adversely impact the well-being of the youth. In response, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) revised the Registrar’s Standards for Internet Gaming, which will be enforced from February 28, 2024.
● The revision followed discussions with diverse stakeholders, including mental health entities, gambling specialists, gaming enterprises, and the general public.
● The AGCO noted that the prohibition ensures substantial criticisms about the escalation in digital gambling promotions, especially during real-time sports occurrences.
Tom Mungham, the AGCO’s registrar and CEO, remarked, “Young individuals are profoundly impacted by the athletes and famous personalities they admire. Hence, we are augmenting measures to safeguard Ontario’s youth by prohibiting the utilization of these influential figures to endorse digital wagering in Ontario.”
The prohibition restricts Ontario digital gaming enterprises from employing active or retired athletes in their promotions unless it is for endorsing responsible gambling practices. Additionally, the utilization of “role models, social media influencers, entertainers, animated characters” and any symbols enticing to minors is now limited. Enterprises are also forbidden from promoting or distributing promotional materials delineating gambling incentives, bonuses, and credits.
Canadian senator Marty Deacon, who initiated federal legislation to prohibit athletes and famous personalities in sports wagering promotions nationwide, applauded the AGCO’s decision but argued that it should be more extensive. She underscored the necessity for national standards and regulations for gambling enterprises across Canada.
Deacon stated, “If other provinces liberalize wagering to private markets, nothing obliges them to adopt identical advertising standards.” She added that inconsistent regulations across the nation result in confusion, and her proposed legislation would facilitate the establishment of uniform standards.
The Ontario NDP also endorsed the decision but advocated for a total prohibition on wagering promotions. NDP health critic MPP France Gélinas remarked, “Health experts have been raising concerns about digital gambling promotions’ influence on individuals, particularly the youth. Today’s announcement is encouraging — now we must heed the recommendations of specialists and continue advocating for more.”
- The move by Ontario follows a growing global acknowledgment of the potential harms associated with gambling promotions. For instance, in the United Kingdom, there have been demands to prohibit all gambling promotions due to concerns about its influence on vulnerable individuals, including children and those with gambling addictions.
- However, some contend that more comprehensive measures are necessary to address the issue fundamentally. Dr. Robert Williams, a professor at the University of Lethbridge and a research coordinator for the Alberta Gambling Research Institute, believes that while the prohibition on athletes and famous personalities in promotions is a positive development, it does not tackle the root causes of gambling addiction.
- The Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA) concurs with this sentiment, stating that a holistic approach is necessary to address gambling-related harms. According to the CCSA, this encompasses a combination of public health measures, such as advertising restrictions, as well as targeted interventions for those at risk of developing a gambling issue.
In conclusion, Ontario’s prohibition on the utilization of athletes and famous personalities in digital gambling promotions is a positive development toward addressing the potential harms associated with gambling. However, detractors argue that more comprehensive measures are necessary, including a total prohibition on gambling promotions, national standards, and a multifaceted approach that encompasses education, prevention, and treatment.
As the province and the nation progress, it will be essential to assess the impact of these measures and adjust strategies as necessary to ensure the well-being of all Canadians.
Last Updated: October 13, 2023