The latest organization to lobby against Ontario sports betting advertisements is taking things up a notch compared to its predecessors. The shared sentiment between interest groups is that athletes should not be able to appear in gambling advertisements because it appeals mainly to minors. But according to the Canadian Mental Health Association, banning just the athletes isn’t nearly enough.
In a recent proposal to the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario, which is also considering banning athletes in advertising, the CMHA urged the AGCO to remove all advertising of online sportsbooks and casinos to shield children from their appeal.
Gambling’s appeal grows with increased exposure, per CMHA
According to the CMHA’s proposal, 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 four percent increase from two years earlier.
These findings fall in line with the motivation behind The Campaign to Ban Advertising for Gambling. One of the cause’s leading figures, Bruce Kidd, a known sports betting critic, called the influx of gambling advertising a “public health danger.”
Influx of ads a product of iGaming regulation
Since opening its iGaming market to third-party operators on April 4, 2022, more than 40 companies have signed on. Unsurprisingly, as these sites jockey for their share of the market, there has been a subsequent surge in gambling-related advertisements.
Typically, the marketing strategy for these operators is to pair a familiar face with a particular brand to attract customers. For the average adult, who’s already found what they like and don’t like, athlete and celebrity endorsements have little sway.
But for people under the age of 25, who the CMHA say are more prone to taking risks because their brains are still developing, seeing Auston Matthews in a Bet99 commercial might prompt them to take action.
Under Bill C-218, people under the age of 19 cannot open an online wagering account. However, offshore and unregulated sites continue to generate significant betting activity.
According to an IPSOS survey from early April, 85% of respondents who wagered online did so through regulated platforms.
CMHA hopes to protect vulnerable groups, at the very least
If all else fails, the CMHA is pushing for changes that will, at a minimum, better protect at-risk populations.
The mental health authority noted that risks are particularly high in low-income families. The CMH intends to quell the long-term impacts of problem gambling-related harms such as financial loss, mental health issues, substance abuse, and suicide ideation.
The association is also petitioning for the AGCO to require online gaming sites to set limits on the amount of money that can be wagered, along with how much time users can spend online.
Based on CMHA recommendations, iGaming advertising should only air at times when possible exposure to children is minimal. Here, their stated goal is to prevent the online gambling industry from capturing the “next generation” of customers.
Update on iGaming numbers from year one
In the past year, Ontario’s gambling industry earned $1.4 billion in revenue on wagers totalling $35.6 billion, per iGaming Ontario. Currently, there are more than one million players who have registered an account with one of the 40-plus regulated sites. On average, these players spend about $70 monthly on iGaming activities.