AGCO fines BetMGM, PointsBet over alleged advertising breach

The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) has announced that it has issued penalties to the Canadian operations of BetMGM and PointsBet for alleged advertising and inducement infractions.

The two companies have been served with Notices of Monetary Penalty for alleged infractions of the Registrar’s Standards for Internet Gaming pertaining to advertising and inducements.

Standard 2.05 details restrictions on the advertising of inducements, bonuses, or credits, except when they are on an operator’s site or through direct advertising and marketing issued after receiving active player consent. Meanwhile, Standard 2.04 requires that materials must not imply that the chances of winning increase with the more one spends.

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BetMGM Canada has been issued a fine totalling $48,000 for its alleged failure to comply with Standards 2.04 and 2.05.

The AGCO says that contrary to Standard 2.04, the company tweeted that “the more money you put in per bet, the higher your chance is of winning” on April 10, which the AGCO said was misworded and too suggestive of something that is not a fact. In addition, the AGCO asserts that BetMGM posted three separate advertisements on Twitter that were in alleged contravention of Standard 2.05. One was a “$250K Launch Party” advert, including a contest offer where the winner would receive a $100,000 casino bonus; another was a “Bellagio” ad, including an offer of a $10 casino bonus in return for a $25 bet; and the third was a “Jimi Hendrix Free Spin Friday” for the chance to win 100 free spins.

Meanwhile, PointsBet Canada has been fined $30,000 for an alleged failure to comply with Standard 2.05. The AGCO says it advertised two gambling inducements for customers to play for free, one via posters on GO trains and in multiple products and the other via posters at two GO train stations.

Registered operators served with a Notice of Monetary Penalty have the right to appeal the Registrar’s action to the License Appeal Tribunal, an adjudicative tribunal independent of the AGCO and part of Tribunals Ontario.

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PointsBet Canada CEO Scott Vanderwel issued a public apology for “our error made in the interpretation of the standards” and emphasized that the company will ensure it toes the regulatory line in the future.

Ontario is one of the only jurisdictions in the world to prohibit broad public advertising of bonuses and other gambling inducements. The Standards were finalized and announced in September 2021 ahead of Ontario opening its legal online gambling market on April 4 this year.

Canadian Gaming Association President and CEO Paul Burns told PlayCanada that the regulations are a learning curve for everyone in the industry.

“Regulations are one thing when they’re written. In terms of understanding how those are being applied, I think it’s going to be a bit of a learning process for everybody,” Burns said. “I think it will sort itself out in the coming months. But obviously, the AGCO wants to set the tone of what they look for in compliance. Inducements and incentives were really one of the particular areas where they were very firm.”

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