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Operators in Ontario Must Resort to New Advertising Tactics

Last week, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario announced its decision to ban the use of professional athletes in online gambling advertisements and endorsements. According to the CEO of Rivalry, Steven Salz, the advertising changes will require operators in the province’s iGaming sector to become more creative in their marketing efforts.

The update in rules was a long-awaited one, as the launch of Ontario’s private market for gambling operators caused some heavy sports betting marketing in the province. But its changes to the rules, also state that entertainers, influencers, role models, and cartoon characters who would likely be expected to appeal to underage individuals are also a no-go for advertisements.

iGaming Brands Must Become More Creative

In a recent emailed statement, Mr. Salz from Rivalry, which is an esports-oriented betting firm, said that the recent changes will make operators more creative in their marketing. He also noted that the industry has historically been heavily reliant on celebrity and athlete endorsements, but this will change when the rules come into play on February 28, 2024.

William Woodhams, chief executive of the British operator Fitzdares, has already seen a similar ban on athletes participating in U.K. gambling ads. Which was implemented last year. He explained that the company shot a video with players of Fulham F.C. the day before the ban. The operator is also part of Ontario’s sector and will have to get used to the new changes.

Meanwhile, President of the Canadian Gaming Association, Paul Burns calls for more clarity on who qualifies as an athlete and who might appeal to children. He also noted that operators have contractual obligations and need time to adjust to the advertising changes. Mr. Burns reminded that previously the AGCO provided a six-month period for offshore operators to make the switch to the regulatory framework.

Some believe that the implementation is too far away. This includes Bruce Kidd, a former Olympian and professor emeritus of sport and public policy at the University of Toronto, said that the regulator has not read its own release about the harm of ads. This is due to the fact that the new rule will not be in motion during the upcoming NFL season, or much of the NBA and NHL seasons.

Others such as Cynthia Mendoza, a retired teacher and basketball fan from Vancouver, believe the ads have become quite annoying during Raptors’ games. She is alarmed that many of her past students could have been influenced by gambling-related marketing. She is happy with the restriction but believes an outright ban on such ads would be ideal.

Sector Continues to Thrive

In July 2023, Ontario provided its financial report on the first quarter of the 2023-24 fiscal year from its regulated iGaming market. For the first quarter, or the period between April 1 through June 30, 2023, the province handled an online betting volume of CA$14 billion. This translated into CA$545 million in gaming revenue.

Source: Nixon, Geoff “Expect gambling ads to get more ‘creative’ amid Ontario’s stricter rulesCBC News, September 2, 2023