The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario‘s recent decision to ban athletes and other celebrities from appearing in gambling advertising has been the talk of the town recently. Well, at least among those involved in the province’s online gambling industry.
Right now, the focus seems to be on the word-for-word meaning of the AGCO’s ban of celebrities endorsing gambling operators. Starting on Feb. 28, 2024, Ontario gambling ads will no longer be allowed to feature athletes. Also, the use of celebrities, social media influencers, entertainers, cartoon figures, and symbols that may appeal to minors will be restricted.
But, the reality is Ontario casino and sports betting ads — the volume of which has been a point of angst — aren’t going anywhere. Instead, they simply won’t feature the likes of Auston Matthews, Connor McDavid, or Wayne Gretzky anymore.
And, that’s only the beginning.
Limits placed on types of ads, but not overall amount
And, with the start of the NFL regular season just days away, expect to see a notable increase in volume shortly after the AGCO announced this new measures aimed to tame ads.
On its own, the NFL has official partnerships with FanDuel, DraftKings, and Caesars. Collectively, as of November 2022, 26 of the league’s 32 teams have partnerships with an online casino and sportsbook. Odds are, they’re probably thinking about promoting their site some way or another.
But, that’s not all.
Remember, the measures don’t take effect for another six months. That means Ontario operators still have time to run ads with big name athletes like Georges St-Pierre and Kevin Garnett. What’s to say they don’t try to get their money’s worth down the final stretch?
Branded content finds a way
To quote Jeff Goldblum’s Dr. Ian Malcolm in the original Jurassic Park, “life, uh, finds a way.” The same sentiment applies to branded content.
In addition to professional teams owning exclusive partnerships with operators, broadcasting networks do, too. Think about prominent players in the Canadian sports media sphere like Bell (TSN and CTV) and Rogers (Sportsnet and CBC). Both have segments within their programming dedicated to showcasing a particular online casino operator. For example, ‘FanDuel NFL primetime on TSN’ and Bet365’s integration into Blue Jays Central and in-game updates.
Ultimately, the updated measures will not stop these outlets from partnering with gambling sites. Whether you enjoy them or not, gambling ads are now a part of everyday programming, with nothing indicating that will change for the foreseeable future.
Ads transcend borders
Perhaps what has opponents of gambling ads so frustrated is that geographical boundaries don’t truly exist. Sure, a user in British Columbia can’t place a bet on bet365, but that doesn’t mean they won’t see with a series of sponsored green and yellow advertisements. A Blue Jays fan in Vancouver tuning into a game on Sportsnet will still see all the bet365-branded programming on the broadcast. Not to mention theScoreBet logo scattered throughout the Rogers Centre walls.
Unfortunately, for those irked by this development, it’s not a Canadian broadcast exclusive. How many times have you flipped over to ABC, NBC, or FOX to watch a game? Whether on the court, boards or jumbotron, the in-game portion is loaded with US specific gambling advertising. And more often than not, one of the operators sponsors the halftime show.
For this reason, athletes and celebrities will continue to appear in ads in Canadian — and specifically, Ontario — households through programming on US networks.