Ontario Bans Athlete Ads in Online Gambling, Critics Seek Stronger Action

Ontario Bans Athlete Ads in Online Gambling, Critics Seek Stronger Action

Ontario Implements Ban on Athlete Advertising for Online Gambling, Critics Call for Stronger Measures.

In a move aimed at curbing the influence of athletes and celebrities on young minds, Ontario has announced a ban on the use of athletes in advertising for online gambling. The decision comes after mounting concerns about the impact of sports betting advertisements on the province's youth.

However, while the ban has been welcomed, critics argue that it falls short of adequately protecting vulnerable individuals from the potential risks of gambling addiction.

The ban, set to take effect on February 28, 2024, is part of an effort by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) to tighten regulations surrounding online gambling advertising. The commission has recognized the significant influence that athletes and celebrities hold over children and youth, prompting the decision to restrict their participation in such promotions.

Tom Mungham, CEO and Registrar of the AGCO, stated for the CBC , "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 AGCO's decision follows extensive consultations with various stakeholders, including mental health organizations, gambling experts, and the general public. The proposal was met with strong support, as concerns had been raised about the inundation of online gambling advertisements, particularly during live sports events.

A glaring example was highlighted in the AGCO's report, which noted that during a 2023 playoff series game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Florida Panthers, almost eight and a half minutes of advertising were dedicated to online sports gambling.

Ban Could Be Extended in the Future

The ban specifically targets the use of athletes, both active and retired, in gambling advertisements. However, exceptions will be made if these figures are promoting responsible gambling practices. Furthermore, the updated standards extend beyond athletes to encompass a broader range of celebrities, role models, entertainers, and even cartoon characters that might appeal to minors. The aim is to create a safer advertising environment for young audiences.

While the ban has been praised for its proactive approach, Canadian senator Marty Deacon, who has been pushing for stricter regulations in the sector, has expressed a desire for more comprehensive measures. Deacon's federal legislation, proposed in June, calls for a nationwide ban on athletes and celebrities appearing in sports betting advertisements. She emphasizes the need for uniform standards across provinces to avoid confusion and ensure consistent protection.

The Ontario New Democratic Party (NDP) has also welcomed the ban on athlete advertising for online gambling, seeing it as a step in the right direction. The NDP acknowledges the concerns voiced by health professionals regarding the impact of online gambling advertisements, especially on youth. However, the party and its representatives maintain that more action is needed to address the broader issue of unregulated advertising content.

Not Strict Enough, Critics Say

Critics argue that the ban, while promising, does not go far enough in tackling the problem of gambling addiction. Bruce Kidd, a professor emeritus of sports and public policy at the University of Toronto, suggests that a complete ban on sports betting advertising, similar to the ban on tobacco ads in the past, is necessary to truly protect individuals from harm.

As Ontario takes this progressive step towards limiting the influence of athletes and celebrities in online gambling advertisements, the debate continues on whether the measures are adequate. While advocates applaud the move, calls for national standards and a broader ban underscore the ongoing efforts to strike a balance between entertainment and safeguarding vulnerable individuals from the potential perils of gambling addiction.

As of February 2024, Ontarians will witness the full implementation of these new advertising standards, shedding light on their effectiveness in mitigating the impact of such promotions on the province's youth.