Gambling Ads During Ontario NFL Games Not As Prevalent As You Might Think

Written By Matthew Lomon on December 19, 2023 - Last Updated on January 2, 2024
Man watching a Detroit Lions NFL game on television. Gambling Ads during Ontario NFL games are not as prevalent as you might think.

Watching one blowout after another without changing the channel at commercial or halftime can really test one’s love for professional football. But it’s a worthy sacrifice for our loyal readers.

Blessed with a double slate of NFL games, PlayCanada spent the past weekend locked in on six contests from kickoff to the final whistle. While that may sound like your average Saturday and Sunday during football season, something greater was at play.

Week 15 presented a golden opportunity to study what’s been a hot topic of discussion in Ontario iGaming for over a year now. That, of course, is Ontario online casino and sportsbook advertisements.

Similar to last December’s weekend of sports watching, we tallied up gambling ads as they appeared on TV. That, however, was merely a critique of their contents. This time around, we wanted to find out how many made responsible gambling in Ontario its core message.

It needs to be noted this is a snapshot, not science.

Half-a-dozen games and 698 ads later, we found that 9.3% of promotions were gambling-related (65 total). Of those 65 wagering ads:

  • 86.2% were for an Ontario sportsbook (56 total)
  • 7.7% promoted Ontario online casinos (5 total)
  • 4.6 % were for an Ontario retail casino (3 total)
  • 1.5% promoted the Ontario lottery (1 total)

The ads for this study were collected from TSN, CBS, FOX, and NBC.

TSN, which ran all three Saturday games, contributed a total of 305 adverts, while the remaining US networks combined for 393 on Sunday.

About 1 in 5 wagering ads centred around responsible gambling

Gambling ads During NFL Games

Per Section 2.2.3 of the Registrar’s Standards for Internet Gaming, “Advertising and marketing materials shall, where effective, contain a responsible gambling message.” As expected, all 65 gambling ads met that requirement. However, the vast majority did not feature responsible gambling as its core message.

By our count, 12 of the 65 wagering ads earned such a distinction. That comes out to about 18.5%. Breaking it down even further, all 12 RG-centric ads came from just two sources.

The first source, FanDuel Canada, has an exclusive partnership with TSN that includes in-game promotions and eight different segment sponsorships. The globally recognized gambling brand also became an official partner of the NFL in 2021. For that reason, the brand accounted for 66.7% or eight of the dozen RG-centred ads over the six-game stretch.

In other words, if we weren’t familiar with the ad depicting two friends discussing their responsible gambling strategies only to find out one uses a cat rather than in-app features, we are now.

Moving on, source number two wasn’t an operator. Instead, it was the National Council on Problem Gambling. With help from Hall of Fame quarterback Kurt Warner —who will still be able to advocate for responsible gambling practices after the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario implements its advertising ban on athletes and other celebrities starting Feb. 28, 2024 — the NCPG rounded things out with four messages.

Despite not being an operator, the NCPG’s presence as a third-party organization was welcomed during a dense pattern of repeating ads.

FanDuel’s substantial marketing budget did its job

Knowing FanDuel and its blank cheque approach to marketing makes it very easy to understand why the company never struggles with visibility concerns. Not to belabour the subject, but being the official betting partner of both the league and network its games are featured on certainly helps.

This is all very apparent when breaking down the 65 gambling advertisements by source:

  • FanDuel – 50 (76.9% of the overall total)
  • BetMGM – 7
  • NCPG – 4
  • Aristocrat – 2
  • OLG – 1
  • Gateway – 1

Gambling Ads by Source

Given the sheer volume of FanDuel ads, it was only a matter of time before one landed perfectly. Unfortunately for Cowboys fans, the John Goodman-narrated “garbage time” commercial just so happened to run during the two-minute warning with the score sitting at 31-10.

Five sources account for the remaining 23.1% of ads not delivered by FanDuel. BetMGM Canada, the only other online operator on the list, tallies nearly half of what’s left on the table. For those wondering, Vanessa Hudgens’ online casino commercial edged Jamie Foxx’s online sportsbook plug by a score of 5-2.

Aristocrat joined the party with two in-game ads for its NFL-themed slot machines. Appearing during gameplay stoppages, these ads encouraged viewers to scan the QR code on the screen to find the featured slot at a gaming facility nearest them.

Gateway, which operates 14 retail casino locations in Ontario, simply ran a single promo highlighting where they can be found.

The lone lottery ad belonged to none other than the Ontario Lottery and Corporation.

Total number of gambling ads on par with 2022 analysis

Briefly turning our attention back to last year’s commercial critique will show that the overall number of wagering ads between now and then is strikingly similar.

Also observed over a six-game window, our prior analysis yielded 64 total gambling ads. That’s only one less advertisement than this year’s total. What’s more, this edition of the study stuck specifically to NFL games, while the previous model spread across four World Cup matches, one NHL bout, and one NFL clash.

Back then, the AGCO had not yet announced its impending ban. And, although the measures won’t come into effect for another two months, there was still a noticeable decline in the number of familiar faces this go around.

Among those who didn’t make the cut in 2023 include:

  • Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul for Bet365
  • Canadian Olympic champion Andre De Grasse for Coolbet, which is no longer available in Ontario.
  • Wayne Gretzky for BetMGM

Whether that’s a product of expiring endorsement deals or a conscious effort by operators to get ahead of things, the tide has already begun to show signs of turning in Ontario.

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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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