In the last several years, Canada has witnessed some major developments in its gambling industry, leading to a surge in sports betting advertisements. But with the bombardment of ads, experts from the country debate whether it has become out of control, as it can have a negative effect on young adults and those who are already experiencing any degree of problem gambling.
In August 2021, the federal government enacted Bill C-218 as law, thus decriminalizing wagering on single sporting events. This was a highly-anticipated change which paved the way for the opening of Ontario’s iGaming market for third-party operators in April 2022. This contributed to the overflow of sports betting ads during sports games, making them quite common today.
Ads Can Lead to Problem Gambling
Former Olympian and University of Toronto professor emeritus Bruce Kidd said watching sports these days felt like being in a casino. He believes the problem with sports wagering ads was that they emphasize the propensity to bet and this could result in addiction to gambling. With the help of several others, he launched Campaign to Ban Ads for Gambling.
Meanwhile, Michael Naraine, an associate professor of sports management at Brock University commented that the surge of ads was due to the recent changes to the industry. He noted that sports gambling was an important economic marketplace for Ontario and as a whole for the country. Meaning that it will only become more and more popular.
David Hodgins, the director of the University of Calgary’s clinical psychology program stated that the proliferation of ads normalizes wagering behaviour in a new way for young male sports fans. He explained the issue was that sports bets should be viewed as a potentially harmful activity similar to other potentially addictive behaviour and it needed regulations.
Additionally, Andrew Kim, an associate professor o psychology at Toronto Metropolitan University, also believes the ads normalize gambling by suggesting it was an accepted activity in society. That is why he is suggesting stronger regulation on ads, as they could feature more educational messaging from gaming operators.
The Canadian Mental Health Association has also weighed in on the topic of betting ads in the country. It made the recommendations to the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario which oversees the iGaming market to ban all betting ads. It advises that iGaming ads should be limited to the times of the day when the likelihood of exposure to children would be minimal
Sports Stars Could Be Banned from Ads
Last month, AGCO itself also came up with a proposal to change advertisement regulations in the province. The iGaming watchdog suggested banning pro athletes from participating in gambling ads. It wants to prohibit the use of cartoon figures, symbols, role models, social media influencers, celebrities or entertainers who tend to appeal to younger audiences.
Source: Otis, Daniel “Are sports betting ads getting out of control in Canada? Experts weigh in” CTV News, May 16, 2023