AGCO makes athletes & celebrities call after Ontario igaming ads review

The strengthening of the Registrar’s Standards for Internet Gaming follows months of consultations

The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) has delivered its final verdict on the use of athletes in igaming adverts, revealing there will be an outright ban on the practice from next year.

In a significant reform of online gambling advertising standards, registered Ontario igaming operators will be prohibited from using athletes, whether active or retired, in igaming marketing and advertising, except for the exclusive purpose of advocating for responsible gambling practices.

The new restrictions will come into effect on Feb. 24, 2024, with further restrictions also placed on the use of celebrities, role models, social media influencers, entertainers, cartoon figures, and symbols that ‘would likely be expected to appeal to minors’.

This upgrades the previous threshold which merely prohibited the use of advertising and marketing content with a ‘primary appeal to minors’

The AGCO first announced its proposal to ban sports stars across online gambling ads in April, which was followed by months of speculation and consultations with various stakeholders including mental health and public health organizations, responsible gambling experts, gaming operators, broadcast and marketing groups, and the public.

OLG CEO Duncan Hannay, meanwhile, was a public proponent of the Commission’s review of online gambling advertising standards when speaking in June.

Addressing the update to the Registrar’s Standards for Internet Gaming, Tom Mungham, AGCO Registrar and CEO, explained: “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 promote online betting in Ontario.”

The additions to the AGCO Standards for Internet Gaming are bolded below:

2.03 – Advertising, marketing materials and communications shall not target high-risk, underage or self-excluded persons to participate in lottery schemes, shall not include underage individuals, and shall not knowingly be communicated or sent to high-risk players. (Also applicable to Gaming-Related Suppliers)

Requirements – At a minimum, materials and communications shall not:

  1. Be based on themes, or use language, intended to appeal primarily to minors.
  2. Appear on billboards or other outdoor displays that are directly adjacent to schools or other primarily youth-oriented locations.
  3. Use or contain cartoon figures, symbols, role models, social media influencers, celebrities, or entertainers who would likely be expected to appeal to minors. [This requirement has been changed]
  4. Use active or retired athletes, who have an agreement or arrangement made directly or indirectly between an athlete and an operator or gaming-related supplier, in advertising and marketing except for the exclusive purpose of advocating for responsible gambling practices. [This requirement is new]
  5. Use individuals who are, or appear to be, minors to promote gaming.
  6. Appear in media and venues, including on websites, and in digital or online media, directed primarily to minors, or where most of the audience is reasonably expected to be minors.
  7. Exploit the susceptibilities, aspirations, credulity, inexperience or lack of knowledge of all potentially high-risk persons, or otherwise extoll the virtues of gaming.
  8. Entice or attract potentially high-risk players. Instead, measures shall be in place to limit marketing communications to all known high-risk players. [This requirement has been changed]

Elsewhere, it was recently announced that Dr. Karin Schnarr will take over as CEO and Registrar next month, following Mungham’s announcement earlier this year.

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