Group Of Ontario Bishops Pushes For Sweeping Ban Of Online Gambling Ads

Written By Matthew Lomon on January 5, 2024
Close up of a bishop's hands holding an open bible. Group Of Ontario bishops are pushing for a sweeping ban of online gambling ads

The growing list of opponents to online gambling advertisements just got a little longer.

A trio of Ontario bishops recently shared a collective statement calling for the complete ban of Ontario online casino and Ontario sports betting ads on television, radio, and social media.

Which bishops want Ontario online gambling ads banned?

The statement features input from Bishops of the ecclesiastical province of Ontario, Archbishop Linda Nicholls, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, and National Indigenous Anglican Archbishop Chris Harper.

The group believes online gambling ads should be treated like another banned product, tobacco.

“Government policy has recognized that tobacco should not be advertised,” the statement said. “This is true of other commodities. We urge you to recognize that well-being of people can be deeply affected by addiction to gambling which is now brought into the living rooms and on the laptops, smart phones and tablets through this business model.

“We may have reservations about gambling itself but are not condemning it as it remains a personal choice. Rather we are speaking to the policy that would permit the advertising and driving traffic and revenue toward an addictive behaviour in youth and vulnerable populations.”

The bishops also went a step further urging Anglicans in Ontario to join the Campaign to Ban Ads on Gambling. Their stated goal is to encourage Anglicans to read the campaign’s “White Paper on the Impact of Advertising for Gambling” for the purposes of asking local members of parliament for the “disestablishment of iGaming in Ontario.”

Bishops’ mission falls in line with that of mental health authority

Last May, the Canadian Mental Health Association also pushed for the complete ban of gambling advertisements. Like the group of religious leaders, the CMHA’s central objective is to shield children from gambling’s appeal.

The mental health authority drafted a proposal to the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario. It says the prominence and frequency of ads during playoff game broadcasts entices kids to gamble.

“In Ontario, we’re seeing an alarming increase among students in Grades 7 to 12 betting money on online gambling,” the proposal said, citing a 2021 study by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.

The same study also revealed that 15% of students reported gambling with money online; a 4% increase from two years earlier.

If all else fails, the CMHA is pushing for changes that will, at a minimum, better protect at-risk populations.

AGCO shares same objective, but differing methods

Ontario’s gambling authority announced last August its intention to amend the standards that govern the use of athletes, celebrities, and influencers in gambling advertising and marketing in Ontario. For context, that was about three months after the CMHA’s proposal and two months before the group of bishops’ statement.

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

The proposed amendments intend to restrict the use of notable faces with likely appeal to children. However, they will still be able to appear in such advertising if they are promoting responsible gambling.

Gaming News Canada reported on Nov. 9 that the AGCO held preliminary meetings with industry stakeholders to probe further into the new guidelines. In a recent follow-up email from December, AGCO executives told the publication that it’s producing a guidance document, and its primary objective is to “provide added clarity for registered operators, suppliers, and other key stakeholders to support a successful implementation.”

More on the matter is expected by the end of the month.

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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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