CFL commissioner says national betting ad plan ‘not necessary’

Randy Ambrosie questions Bill S-269

As the issue of advertising continues to feature heavily in the conversation around sports betting, Canadian Football League (CFL) Commissioner Randy Ambrosie leader has dismissed the idea that a national framework would be helpful.

Bill S-269, the National Framework on Advertising for Sports Betting Actwas heard last month at two Standing Committee on Transport and Communications sessions. While it draws the line at advocating for a blanket ban, it proposes that a national framework for sports betting advertising be developed and implemented across the country, including limiting the frequency of gambling adverts.

However, Ambrosie doesn’t agree that’s the way forward.

“While Bill S-269 may be well-intentioned, we do not agree a national framework is required to regulate the advertising of sports betting in Canada,” Ambrosie wrote in a letter to the committee.

Ambrosie noted that the CFL regulates betting ads on league-controlled channels, “such as broadcast-visible signage on the field, to limit how often and how prominently a sportsbook’s digital log is featured during a CFL game.” He also stressed that the league has its own responsible gaming initiatives in place and educates its employees on the topic.

“The CFL has demonstrated its commitment to the integrity of our sport and to a safe sports wagering environment for those who choose to bet on our games. We strongly believe that the measures we, and other sports leagues, have put in place support our contention that a national framework, as envisioned by Bill S-269, is not necessary.”

He pointed in the letter to the fact that the CFL continues to make efforts to limit the volume of authorised gaming operator partners that are visible in-game “and will continue to consider more formal policies to manage sportsbook advertising volume and frequency.”

“The CFL regularly receives fan feedback and the league monitors these submissions for complaints related to the volume of sportsbook advertising,” added Ambrosie.

“Having said that, we do not claim perfection, on this or any other issue. We recognize that in all that we do, we must remain open-minded and continue to learn and evolve.”

The CFL commissioner had been invited by the committee to join the discussion in person last month but declined due to his commitments relating to the start of the season.

Sports betting ads are a hot-button topic

Sports betting advertising is the debate of the minute in the industry right now and it was a prominent topic of discussion at last month’s Canadian Gaming Summit in Toronto.

As well as the parliamentary discussion, the spread of gambling advertising across Canada — described by Bill S-269 sponsor Sen. Marty Deacon as “a flood” and “a barrage” — has caught the attention of everyone from sportsbook operators to research groups and addiction experts.

While Ambrosie is opposed, the idea of national regulation of gambling does have some support. The Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA) has urged the federal government to set nationwide standards to govern the promotion of gambling products.

A cornerstone argument for taking a tougher stance on betting ads is the notion that it can be harmful to minors if they are exposed. The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Canada (AGCO) has taken measures to address that danger, banning sportsbooks from using celebrities or imagery that would appeal to minors to promote their products and also banning sportsbook billboard advertising near places where youth or vulnerable populations gather, such as schools. The commission recently ordered an arena that is home to youth hockey teams to pull down advertising for Canadian sportsbook theScore Bet.

Shawn Lemon ban enforced

While not related to advertising, the CFL has its own gambling-related situation to manage right now.

An independent arbitrator has reinstated the CFL’s suspension of Montreal Alouettes defensive lineman Shawn Lemon for allegedly betting on league games including one he was involved in as a player in 2021.

“The prohibition of wagering on the CFL by CFL personnel, including players, is critical to the reputation and standing of the league,” stated Ambrosie about that case. “The CFL will vigorously defend its position at the arbitration hearing.” The CFL recently undertook an extensive review of its gambling rules and updated its language and protocols around employee wagering.

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