AGCO proposing rule changes for athlete and celebrity advertising

AGCO proposing rule changes for athlete and celebrity advertising

Sports betting advertising is a topic that continues to be debated in Ontario and throughout the sports betting world. The U.S. gambling industry recently adopted a new marketing code that bans sportsbooks from partnering with colleges to promote sports betting.

Now the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario is proposing a ban on advertisements that feature active and retired athletes. Here are the details.

Quick Take

  • Potential ban on advertisements with athletes
  • Changes to rules that govern celebrity advertising
  • Young people aged 10 to 24 years have higher rates of problem gambling than adults, according to CAMH

Potential changes to advertising rules

The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario released proposed changes to the rules governing athlete and celebrity advertising for internet gambling and marketing, the organization announced on Thursday. The AGCO announced it is “proposing to prohibit the use of athletes as well as celebrities that can reasonably be expected to appeal to children and youth from internet gambling advertising and marketing in Ontario.”

Under the current rules, operators are prohibited from using advertisements that contain cartoon figures, celebrities, entertainers, or role models “whose primary appeal is to minors.” The verbiage is slightly different, but the new rule should be applicable to a lot more people than the previous. The goal is to reduce potential harm to youth and children, according to the AGCO.

Why changes are being proposed

The AGCO’s reasoning for the proposal is a high level of concern regarding the potential harmful impact that advertisements with celebrities and athletes have on underage persons. The prevalence of advertisements from sports betting sites has been a problem for many in Ontario. Canadian Safety Council manager Lewis Smith said sports betting itself isn’t problematic, but advertising can cause problems. 

“The problem is the prevalence of it and the prevalence of gambling as a concept. The more availability, the more the odds are that someone will develop a gambling addiction. Our biggest issue is advertising rather than the concept itself,” Smith said.

If implemented, the new rules will require operators and suppliers “to cease any advertising and marketing activities that use athletes, whether active or retired, in gaming marketing and advertising” and prohibit them from using “cartoon figures, symbols, role models, social media influencers, celebrities or entertainers who are reasonably expected to appeal to minors.”

Youth and gambling

According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, “young people aged 10 to 24 years have higher rates of problem gambling than adults.” CAMH also claims gambling behaviours formed at a young age can contribute to problem gambling during adulthood.  Young people can be exposed to gambling advertisements because of their activity on social media platforms and by social media influencers who are paid by gambling companies, according to CAMH.

The proposed changes would not ban advertising, but would reduce the number of options that Ontario sports betting sites have when advertising. This decision is not final. The AGCO is “engaging with a broad range of stakeholders to hear their perspectives and are accepting comments until May 8.”