by Adam Dworak

Ontario Implements Ban on Athlete Endorsements in Gambling Ads

The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) has announced a significant regulatory change that will reshape the landscape of gambling advertising in the province.

iGaming Ontario Seeks Partnership for Centralized Self-Exclusion Solution

A new rule has been issued, prohibiting gambling operators from featuring both active and retired athletes in advertisements for their online casino or sports betting brands.

Sweeping Changes in Advertising Norms

Under the new regulations, not only athletes but also celebrities, social media influencers, cartoon characters, entertainers, and individuals deemed to be role models are barred from appearing in gambling advertising or marketing materials. The only exception to this rule is when such personalities are promoting responsible gambling initiatives.

This move by the AGCO will impact several prominent brands that have historically leveraged athletes and celebrities to promote their services in Ontario. Notable examples include BetMGM’s advertisements featuring hockey legends Wayne Gretzky and Connor McDavid, as well as DraftKings’ partnership with NBA superstar LeBron James. These figures will no longer be visible in Ontario’s gambling advertisements under the new guidelines.

The Context of Ontario’s Online Betting Industry

Ontario’s online betting sector, which launched in April 2022, has witnessed rapid growth in a relatively short span. By the end of the third quarter of the current fiscal year (December 31st), the province reported a staggering $17.2 billion CAD in handle and $658 million CAD in gaming revenues. These figures underscore the burgeoning nature of the industry, making the timing and impact of the AGCO’s new advertising rule particularly noteworthy.

Our Comment on the New Regulation

The AGCO’s decision to ban athlete and celebrity endorsements in gambling advertisements marks a pivotal shift towards promoting responsible gambling and mitigating the potential risks associated with glamorizing betting activities. By eliminating the association between popular public figures and gambling, the commission aims to foster a safer and more responsible gaming environment. This approach reflects a growing trend within the iGaming industry towards prioritizing consumer protection and ethical advertising practices. As the Ontario market continues to evolve, it will be interesting to observe how operators adapt to these changes and innovate in their marketing strategies to engage with audiences in a responsible manner.

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