Ontario government will ban the use of athletes in online gambling advertisements and restrict the use of celebrities likely to appeal to minors. The measure advocated by Opposition NDP and a Canadian senator has already been included in the respective standards of the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) and is set to come into effect on 24 February 2024 as CBC News reports.

AGCO Updated Standards Accordingly

The concerns about the adverse impacts of the gambling advertisements that include sports celebrities have been raised in the province since the 2022 launch of independent gambling sites. The list of celebrities promoting online gambling sites includes Hockey legend Wayne Gretzky and NHL icon Connor McDavid, who are role models for a wide youth population. For this reason, AGCO updated its Registrar’s Standards for Internet Gaming on 29 August 2023 to prohibit the use of athletes starting from 24 February 2024.

As reported by CBC News, Tom Mungham, the AGCO’s registrar and CEO, stated: “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.”

Result of Extensive Criticism

The ban proposal reportedly follows a series of consultations held between AGCO and a range of mental-health organizations, gambling experts, operations, and public. According to the source, AGCO recently said that its proposal  is the result of a significant criticism coming from ”advocates, experts and parents” about the increased volume of online gambling advertisements. The regulator reportedly illustrated that a 2023 playoff series game featured ”nearly eight and a half minutes of advertisements” dedicated to online sports betting.

Concerns About Minors

Ontario is the first Canadian province that legalized online sports wagering on 4 April 2022, following the August 2021 launch of the in-person betting operations. As reported, AGCO now considers that the use of athletes and celebrities to promote online gambling may represent a“potential harm to those under the legal gaming age.” The proposal to amend the legislation will prevent the online gaming operators from partnering with former or active athletes for gambling advertising purposes.

Senator Advocates Adherence to National Standards

Canadian senator Marty Deacon, who submitted the proposal for the legislation amendment in June 2023, reportedly commented: “While it’s a step in the right direction, I would have liked to see them go further.” CBC News reports the senator’s words that the province should only allow gambling advertisements on TV and that gambling companies shall follow the respective national standards. “If other provinces open betting to private markets, nothing compels them to implement the same advertising standards,” she reportedly said.

Preventing Unregulated Content

The move is supported by the representatives of the Ontario NDP and Conservative parties with the former claiming that the proposal will reportedly ”help protect both children and adults from the explosion of unregulated advertising content,” and the latter referring to the disputable ads as ”irritant.” Other advocates consider that the ban should include sports betting ads in general and see the implementation as significantly postponed. In any case, online sports gambling will not feature former or active celebrity athletes from 24 February 2024.