Athletes to be banned from ads for online gambling in Ontario

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Ontario to ban ads for online gambling featuring pro-athletes, celebrities
WATCH: Ontario will ban professional athletes and celebrities from appearing in ads for online gambling as of February 28, 2024. Mike Armstrong explains what's behind the province's decision, the reaction, and the questions about potential exceptions – Aug 29, 2023

Ontario is banning the use of athletes in ads for online gambling, with the provincial regulator saying the move will “help safeguard children and youth.”

The Alcohol and Gaming and Commission of Ontario (ACGO) said Tuesday that the changes will come into effect on Feb. 28, 2024.

Athletes will be prohibited from ads and marketing for Ontario’s iGaming market, while “standards have also been strengthened to restrict the use of celebrities” who likely appeal to minors, the AGCO said.

“Following the first year of Ontario’s open, regulated iGaming market, the AGCO identified advertising and marketing approaches that use athletes, as well as celebrities with an appeal to minors, as a potential harm to those under the legal gaming age and is taking this step to reduce the risk,” the AGCO said in a statement.

In April, the agency held consultations on its proposal to ban the ads. Submissions were received from “a broad range of stakeholders” including responsible gambling experts, gaming operators, marketing groups, health organizations, and the public, the AGCO said.

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“Following these consultations, the AGCO has determined that prohibiting the use of athletes and restricting celebrity endorsements would help safeguard children and youth who can be particularly susceptible to such advertising content,” the statement said.

Athletes, whether active or retired, will be banned from participating in ads for Ontario iGaming operators, except for the “exclusive purpose” of advocating for responsible gambling, the AGCO said.

Hockey legend Wayne Gretzky and current NHL stars Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews are among the athletes who have appeared in ads for gambling sites.

The use of celebrities, entertainers, social media influencers, role models, cartoon figures and symbols that “would likely be expected to appeal to minors” are restricted under the changes.

Prior to the change, the standard prohibited the use of ads and marketing content with a “primary appeal to minors.”

Further information on the updates to the AGCO’s standards can be found on the agency’s website.

— With a file from The Canadian Press

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