Loto-Québec is worried.
A media campaign dropping soon will remind Québecers that LotoQuébec.com offers the province’s only legal online casino sites. Increasing competition from illegal online casinos has prompted the lottery’s offensive move.
“Illegal gaming sites have numerous advertisements in various media,“ Renaud Dugas, Loto-Québec spokesperson, said in an email to La Presse. ”The situation concerns us since these sites (and their advertisements) cause confusion among players.“
According to the crown corporation, many users mistakenly believe these sites fall under the Loto-Québec umbrella. But that’s not the reality.
To challenge this misconception, Loto-Québec is planning “concrete actions” directed at players. Actions will reinforce its site as the only legal, secure online casino in Québec with comprehensive responsible gambling practices.”
“We will continue to make every effort to take our place and channel the illegal gaming traffic to our site,” Dugas added.
A different point of view
When it comes to television advertising, networks take a different view.
While rules prohibit ads for illegal online casinos that charge money (.com), ads for free-play sites (.net) are fair play.
“The sites advertised are free, so it does not violate the Criminal Code,” said Patrick Tremblay, communications manager at Bell Media. Tremblay is also a majority shareholder of RDS, the french language sports network and sister to TSN. RDS airs ads from numerous online casino companies.
Although Tremblay understands some viewers could be “disturbed” by ads for online casinos, not everyone is bothered.
“It’s not unanimous,” he said.
Broadcasters remain tight-lipped
According to La Presse, an article they published on Monday received substantial traction with readers. For many, the article about police inaction toward illegal online gambling brought the issue to light.
In the aftermath, the paper received calls questioning the TV ads. Most comments were directed at TVA Sports, which broadcasts the Montreal Canadiens’ playoff games in French. However, the CBC showed similar ads during its Canadiens English broadcasts.
Neither TVA nor CBC responded to requests for answers. Chuck Thompson, CBC’s head of public affairs, directed questions to Sportsnet.
“As Sportsnet is the exclusive rights holder for the National Hockey League in Canada and sells the advertisements for the games, your questions should be directed to them,” he said.
Sarah Grossman, Sportsnet’s director of communications, said online casino ads adhere to industry standards.
“All advertisements on Sportsnet television, including for free-to-play sites like Bet99.net, have been approved by ThinkTV,” she said.
ThinkTV, however, receives industry funding. It sees no issue with the ads’ appearance.
“We only approve of ads that promote free sites,” said ThinkTV CEO Catherine MacLeod. “As you know, these sites are not illegal under the Criminal Code.”
La Presse also asked the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), Canada’s regulatory body for electronic media, for comment. However, the CRTC redirected all questions to Advertising Standards Canada, another industry-funded group.
Its answers, offered by chief legal and policy officer Catherine Bate, followed the same line as ThinkTV’s.
“We make a distinction between advertisements for .com sites that are paid and .net or free sites,” said Bate. Prohibition of ads for “Free social games, which are not betting games and paid lotteries,” is uncommon.