AGCO To Ban Athletes, Other Celebrities From Ontario Gambling Advertisements

Written By Matthew Lomon on August 29, 2023
Wayne Gretzky

After months of deliberation, the verdict is finally in. The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario has announced a ban that will prohibit athletes and other celebrities from appearing in gambling advertising and marketing in Ontario.

According to the regulator, the updates to the Registrar’s Standards for Internet Gaming will take effect on Feb. 28, 2024 — six months hence.

Additionally, the amended standards will also restrict the use of celebrities in Ontario sports betting and casino advertisements.

Protecting minors at the forefront of AGCO’s decision

When the open, regulated online Ontario gambling market first went live on April 4, 2022, dozens of companies entered with the goal of carving out a sustainable market share. To reach said goal, operators (obviously) had to find ways differentiate themselves from the competition.

And, so came the big-name endorsements from current and former superstars like Auston Matthews, Connor McDavid, and Wayne Gretzky.

Subsequently, around the first anniversary of Ontario’s market opening to private operators, the AGCO identified this time tested marketing strategy as potentially harmful to those under the province’s legal gambling age.

In that same timeframe, the AGCO held consultations on its proposal to ban such ads. As such, the regulator received submissions from the following stakeholders:

  • Mental health and public health organizations
  • Responsible gambling experts
  • Gaming operators
  • Broadcast and marketing groups
  • The public

As a result of these consultations, the AGCO decided to prohibit athletes and restrict celebrity endorsements. The goal is to help safeguard children and youth who may be susceptible to the allure of such advertising.

Dr. Antonia Mantonakis previously told PlayCanada the AGCO’s concern was well warranted.

New measures target more than just athletes and celebrities

As part of the new amendments to the registrar’s standards, iGaming operators cannot use athletes, active or retired, in their advertising. However, they can be featured for the exclusive purpose of advocating for responsible gambling practices.

On top of athletes and celebrities, the list of restricted figures also includes:

  • Role models
  • Social media influencers
  • Entertainers
  • Cartoon figures; and
  • Symbols “that would likely be expected to appeal to minors.”

The AGCO believes these changes will broaden and strengthen the existing standards in place, which prohibited advertising and marketing content with a “primary appeal to minors.”

“Children and youth are heavily influenced by the athletes and celebrities they look up to,” said Tom Mungham, registrar and CEO, AGCO. “We’re therefore increasing measures to protect Ontario’s youth by disallowing the use of these influential figures to promote online betting in Ontario.”

Ontario’s provincial gaming authority has been no stranger to the headlines lately. Just last week it appointed Dr. Karin Schnarr as its new CEO and registrar. Schnarr is the successor to incumbent Tom Mungham, who announced plans to retire in March of this year.

Photo by Chuck Burton / AP Photo
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Matthew Lomon

Matthew Lomon has been a contributor at Catena Media’s network of regional sites since July 2022. He first broke into covering the legal North American gambling industry with PlayCanada. Since then, Matthew's reporting has extended to PlayMichigan, PlayPennsylvania, and PlayIllinois. Based out of Toronto, Ontario, Matthew is an avid (bordering on fanatic) sports fan.

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