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Canadian Mental Health Association Wants Ban on All iGaming Ads

The Canadian Mental Health Association calls for a more drastic change when it comes to online gambling ads in the country. CMHA has recently proposed to ban all iGaming ads as a way of protecting teens and young adults. The recommendations to the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario come amidst the regulator’s proposal to prohibit the use of sports stars in commercials.

The recent upsurge in commercials about online gambling and sports betting can be explained by the introduction of Ontario’s open iGaming market for third-party operators in April 2022. It attracted interest from some of the largest operators in the industry, who already gained access to it, and now their ads have overcrowded TV broadcasts, especially during sports games.

Recommendations to the Regulator

In its submission to the Ontario regulator, CMHA noted that the province has seen a concerning increase in Grades 7 to 12 students wagering money on online gambling. The organization cited a 2021 Centre for Addiction and Mental Health study which discovered that in the province approximately 15% of students have participated in real-money iGaming. This was 4% higher than in 2020.

Furthermore, CMHA remarked that despite the regulation of the iGaming market last year, some online betting sites continue to be unregulated and are based offshore. Also, an IPSOS survey released in April 2023 found that 85% of the respondents who gambled online in the province did it via one of the many regulated websites. However, there needs to be more work done.

Last month, the iGaming watchdog came up with the proposal of prohibiting high-profile athletes or influencers from featuring in gambling ads as a way of protecting younger demographics. The suggested ban on celebrity endorsement is due to the fact that such popular faces can easily appeal to children and youth and that marketing approaches strongly appeal to those under the legal age of gaming in the province.

But the mental health authority noted that ads are still affecting minors and young adults whose brains are not fully developed until they reach 25 and that they were more prone to taking risks. It reminded that gambling-related issues such as money loss, mental health difficulties, substance use, and suicide ideation can have a long-term impact on a gambler and their family.

It also noted risks are particularly high in low-income families, and that there should be limits on how much one can wager and how much time one can spend online. The association recommends that iGaming ads should be limited to the times of the day when the likelihood of exposure to children would be minimal, saying this would help the industry find the next generations of bettors.

Numbers from the First Year of iGaming

In April 2023, Ontario marked the first year since the legalization of its online gaming market for private operators. For the first 12 months of operations, the market generated a betting volume of CA$35.6 billion, which brought around US$1.4 billion in revenue. There were more than a million players with an account on one of the 40+ operators and an average monthly spend of CA$70.

Source: Ferguson, Rob “Should Ontario ban advertising for all online betting to protect young people?Toronto Star, May 14, 2023