Ontario banning online gambling commercials featuring athletes and celebrities
Athletes, as well as some celebrities, will no longer be allowed to appear in commercials promoting online gambling in Ontario.
The new rules, proposed by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO), will go into effect at the end of February 2024.
The ACGO argues that a ban on the use of athletes and celebrity endorsements would "help safeguard children and youth who can be particularly susceptible to such advertising content."
CEO and Registrar of the AGCO Tom Mungham has previously told CTV News Toronto the amount of advertising associated with gambling has increased since the province legalized single-game online sport betting just over a year ago.
In May, the Centre for Addictions and Mental Health, as well as other organizations, said they supported an early proposal to restrict athlete and celebrity participation in gambling advertising as "children and youth, as well as those already experiencing gambling problems, are especially susceptible to these effects."
"Children and youth are heavily influenced by the athletes and celebrities they look up to," Mungham said in a statement.
"We're therefore increasing measures to protect Ontario's youth by disallowing the use of these influential figures to promote online betting in Ontario."
As of Feb. 28, no athletes—both active or retired—may be used in advertising and marketing for Internet Gaming in Ontario, with the exception of advocating for responsible gambling practices.
The same rules apply to the use of celebrities, role models, social media influencers, entertainers, cartoon figures and symbols who would "likely be expected to appeal to minors," the ACGO said.
The changes do not affect regulations to the volume, location or style of the advertising, Mungham clarified.
The proposal by the AGCO comes after significant criticism from advocates, experts and parents about the notable rise of online gambling advertisements, especially during live sports. For example, during a 2023 playoff series game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Florida Panthers, nearly eight and a half minutes of advertisements were dedicated to online sport gambling.
Toronto Maple Leafs' Auston Matthews, Edmonton Oilers' Connor McDavid and Hockey Hall of Famer Wayne Gretzky, are among high-profile athletes who have starred in recent online sports-betting promotions.
Former Olympian and University of Toronto professor emeritus Bruce Kidd told CTV News in May they recently launched the "Campaign to Ban Ads for Gambling” because "watching them on television today feels like I’m in a casino."
And Kidd isn't the only one to express concern. Canadian Senator Marty Deacon has introduced legislation to compel the government to regulate gambling ads, including limiting or banning the participation of celebrity athletes.
Single-game sports betting was legalized in Canada in 2021, but each province has been left to determine how to regulate the industry.
In Ontario, iGaming -- a subsidiary of the AGCO -- manages about 30 third-party operators.