AGCO Wants To Keep Athletes Out Of Gambling Advertising

Written By Matthew Lomon on April 18, 2023
Connor McDavid

The old ‘celebrity endorsement’ advertising technique may soon be off the table for marketing teams at Ontario online sportsbooks and casinos.

In an effort to mitigate gambling’s appeal to children, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario is intent on banning the use of athletes and celebrities in online gambling advertisements.

“The AGCO has identified advertising and marketing approaches that strongly appeal to persons who are under the legal gaming age through the use of celebrities and/or athletes,” said the commission in a blog post.

Potential ban seeks sweeping, straightforward change

If the AGCO prevails, the new rules would effectively terminate all current and future advertisements featuring active or retired athletes. In addition to athletes, companies would no longer be able to employ any of the following figures in their advertisements:

  • Cartoon characters.
  • Social media influencers.
  • Celebrities.
  • Symbols or role models who are “reasonably expected to appeal to minors.”

To become enforceable, the proposed changes will have to come as an amendment to Ontario’s internet gambling advertising standards. That said, before the AGCO makes anything official, industry stakeholders have until May 8 to submit any comments or concerns to the commission.

The AGCO also noted that any new rules would not take effect until three months after the amendment is finalized. At this time, the commission is still without a publication date.

Similar gaming advertising rules already exist in the United Kingdom

In April 2022 (the same time Ontario’s market first opened), the UK adopted similar advertising restrictions.

Specifically, athletes, and reality television and social media stars are impermissible in all forms of gambling advertising.

On top of this, football clubs in the Premier League announced last week the collective decision to ban gambling sponsorships from the fronts of their jerseys by the 2025-26 season.

Currently, the majority of professional teams in the major four North American sports leagues have partnerships with regulated operators. However, only three franchises, the Arizona Coyotes, Vegas Golden Knights, and Washington Capitals wear patches on their jerseys.

Iconic athletes want their piece of the pie but refuse to answer for it

As Ontario’s market continued to grow, it wasn’t just teams jumping on the gambling wave. Familiar faces, past and present, including Auston Matthews (Bet99), Wayne Gretzky (BetMGM) and Connor McDavid (BetMGM) are all ambassadors for recognizable online operators.

Despite their prominence in the public eye, all three mega-stars preferred to stick to the script when discussing their alliances. According to CBC News, Matthews, Gretzky, and McDavid each declined to speak about the gambling brands they represent.

The request stemmed from an investigation into Canadian sports betting by CBC’s The Fifth Estate back in January.

Photo by Rick Scuteri / AP
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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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