Advertising experts support AGCO ban on athletes in iGaming advertisements, but still unsure about effectiveness

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Advertising experts support AGCO ban on athletes in iGaming advertisements, but still unsure about effectiveness

Athletes are everywhere right now in iGaming advertising. All you have to do is head over to one of your favourite sports betting sites to see an athlete advertising for a sportsbook. There are those that believe the onus is on family members to educate their loved ones about sports betting, but the AGCO is going forward with new rules for athletes and celebrities in iGaming advertisements. The new rules ban the use of athletes in iGaming advertisements.

Quick Take

  • AGCO bans athletes in iGaming advertising
  • Advertising experts explain
  • How to handle iGaming advertisements if you have children

Athletes banned in iGaming advertisements

The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario announced it will ban the use of athletes in internet gaming advertising and marketing in Ontario as of Feb. 28, 2024. This comes after the AGCO proposed changes to the rules governing athlete and celebrity advertising in April. According to the AGCO, the new rules “would help safeguard children and youth who can be particularly susceptible to such advertising content.”

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

Advertising experts talk analyze the new rules

Bridge Communications founder, and advertising expert, Marlie Oden said iGaming advertising is not a black and white issue, but supports the ban.

“I understand why the rules have been put in place. It’s because they deal with children. And those are some of the areas, as far as agency goes in the advertising world, there are a number of rules around how you can advertise to children. I understand that, and those are things that over my 40-year advertising career that we’ve worked around.”

Oden said whether or not these new rules are effective will be revealed when more data comes out over the next year or two, but said she believes they will be somewhat effective.

“One of the things that I can tell you as having been in the advertising industry for over 40 years is advertising works. So once you are building on that premise that advertising works and that testimonials and celebrity endorsements work, the curtailing of them is that if you stop doing certain kinds of advertising, that should also work.“

Author and Toronto Metropolitan University associate professor Cheryl Thompson said she is unsure about how effective the ban will be.

“It's difficult to say given how long they have already been in the market, I'm sure they've had a huge impact in user engagement and as I'm sure you know, once you hook someone you don't really need to keep selling to them. So perhaps there will be an impact on new users, but the existing users likely won't be impacted at all, Thompson said.”

Despite a career in advertising spanning about 40 years, Oden said the new rules are not too harsh because it is not realistic to expect parents to educate their children about all the dangers in the world.

“You can’t just lay everything at the feet of the parents because that’s not how the real world  works. It’s very idealistic. It would be wonderful. As a parent, I can tell you it’s very difficult to spend all the time you need to talk about all the things that need to be talked about. This is why the government has legislation around advertising to children, Oden said.”

Why parents should not be held solely responsible

Thompson also explained why the responsibility can not be put solely on parents.

“The responsibility cannot solely rest on individuals and families, nor can governments restrict too much otherwise we border on the infringement of rights and that, too, can lead to outcry, Thompson said.”

Thompson said “the normalization of gambling advertising has really been troubling over the past few years.” But her concern is not with the activity of gambling. “My concern is not with gambling as an adult activity, but the way in which advergaming — the combination of advertising with the fun and play aspect of video games —  has just made the risks seem insignificant. The advertisements with celebrity endorsers present an image of constant winning, upselling the experience as always fun and easy. So, yes, I am very happy with the ban.”

“In an ideal world, it would be really nice if parents were able to spend the time and have the opportunity to talk to their kids about all kinds of things. But let’s face it. In this day and age when you’ve got two people working, sometimes working multiple jobs and juggling all kinds of things, it’s very difficult to stay on top of all the issues you would like to communicate to your children. Should we restrict their amount of screen time, yes we should. Research is pretty clear on that, Oden said.“

According to Oden, the government does not have many tools at their disposal to deal with this issue. These new rules are one of the few options available to them. “There are very few tools now, especially with social media, where you can influence young people and their attitudes towards things. Or in the case of trying to make sure they are not influenced to make decisions on things before they are ready such as gambling, alcohol consumption, and more, there are very few tools available to the government.”

How do people in the GTA feel about the new rules?

30-year-old Eddie Liao supports the new rules and believes advertising can lead to addiction. “Yes, it’s going to get them addicted. There’s always a limit to gambling, but once you get addicted you can’t stop. You could end up going broke or getting into trouble,” Liao said. 

20-year-old Karan Singh also supports the new rules. "I think it’s a good initiative because teenagers could make mistakes. They could have their credit or debit card information stolen from a bad site. It’s good to have these kinds of restrictions until they become responsible."

How to handle iGaming advertisements if you have children

Oden explained how to handle iGaming advertisements from the perspective of a parent and advertising expert for parents and people betting in Ontario.

“I think It’s like anything else with young people, they have to understand what advertising is about, what finance is about. There’s all these educational things that children need to understand how the world works. If I found that my child was spending an inordinate amount of time on social media and being inordinately influenced, you need to have the conversation about how all of that works.

Traditional advertising is kids watching commercials on tv and being influenced. That’s a dated concept for most children. There’s other ways to have these discussions. I think it’s really important. Does every parent have the opportunity to have these conversations with their kids? No, they don’t. Do we need the opportunity to talk about these things in schools? 100% absolutely.”