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Ontario Bans Athletes, Celebrities From Sports Betting Advertisements

Robert Linnehan

by Robert Linnehan in Sports Betting News

Updated Aug 29, 2023 · 8:36 AM PDT

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Apr 29, 2023; Los Angeles, California, USA; Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid (97) moves the puck against the Los Angeles Kings during the first period in game six of the first round of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Crypto.com Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
  • Starting February, no celebrities, certain social media influencers, or athletes will be featured in Ontario sports betting advertisements
  • Standards strengthened to protect individuals under legal age to participate in sports betting
  • Restrictions begin on Feb. 28, 2024

Starting February 2024, Ontario sports betting operators will no longer be able to feature celebrities, athletes, or certain social media influencers in any of their advertising campaigns.

The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) today announced it has updated its Registrar’s Standards for Internet Gaming to prohibit the use of athletes in internet gaming advertising and marketing in Ontario.

The new advertising restrictions will go into effect on Feb. 28, 2024.

No More Celebrity and Athlete Sports Betting Ads

The AGCO restriction is similar to one imposed by the United Kingdom in 2022, which banned sports betting advertisements featuring athletes, reality television stars, and social media influencers.

According to the AGCO, the commission identified advertising and market approaches that use athletes, as well as celebrities with an appeal to minors, as a potential harm to those under the legal gaming age and is taking steps to reduce the risk.

In April 2023, the commission held consultations on its proposal to ban such ads and received submissions from a broad range of stakeholders including mental health and public health organizations, responsible gaming experts, gaming operators, broadcast and marketing groups, and the public.

“Children and youth are heavily influenced by the athletes and celebrities they look up to,” said Tom Mungham, Registrar and CEO, AGCO. “We’re therefore increasing measures to protect Ontario’s youth by disallowing the use of these influential figures to promote online betting in Ontario.”

The new restrictions will disallow operators from using athletes, either active or retired, in iGaming marketing and advertising. The only exception for the restriction will be operators using athletes exclusively for the purpose of advocating for responsible gaming practices.

Here are the restrictions added to the registrar:

  • Use or contain cartoon figures, symbols, role models, social media influencers, celebrities, or entertainers who would likely be expected to appeal to minors. (This requirement has been changed)
  • Use active or retired athletes, who have an agreement or arrangement made directly or indirectly between an athlete and an operator or gaming-related supplier, in advertising and marketing except for the exclusive purpose of advocating for responsible gambling practices. (This requirement is new)
  • Entice or attract potentially high-risk players. Instead, measures shall be in place to limit marketing communications to all known high-risk players. (This requirement has been changed)

The new restrictions, according to the AGCO, will help broaden and strengthen “the existing standard that, prior to this change, prohibited the use of advertising and marketing content with a ‘primary appeal to minors’.”

U.S. Restrictions Possible?

With Ontario taking steps to restrict sports betting ads, will the United States undertake similar, or even greater, prohibitions for advertisements?

Earlier this year, Congressman Paul D. Tonko (D-NY) introduced a bill to ban all online and electronic advertising for sports betting.

The “Betting on our Future Act” seeks to prohibit advertising of sportsbooks on any medium of electronic communication. The bill is modeled after the Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act, which banned tobacco advertisement in a similar fashion.

Despite the bill not gaining much momentum in Congress, it showed the promulgation of sports betting advertising and marketing was certainly on the radar for federal lawmakers. Tonko also recently spoke at the Racing and Gaming Conference at Saratoga and said he would still be pushing the bill forward during sessions.

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