Ontario Emphasizes Responsible Gambling Tools, But Are They Being Used?

Written By Matthew Lomon on January 8, 2024 - Last Updated on January 11, 2024
Time limit symbols over a screenshot of FanDuel's responsible gambling tools menu. Ontario Emphasizes Responsible Gambling Tools, But Are They Being Used?

To conduct business in Ontario, online gambling operators must offer customers responsible gambling tools that are both prominently featured and easily accessible.

This includes basic options like limits on deposits, spending, and session length, or something more urgent like self-exclusion programs.

But just because such tools are mandatory for Ontario online casino operators, doesn’t mean they are for users.

Knowing this, PlayCanada reached out to iGaming Ontario for some insight into players’ relationships with RG tools.

Responding via email, the iGO media team said it does not have statistics on player use of RG tools available for public record. But, iGO said it continually assesses its public reporting decisions to address Ontario’s evolving market.

It did, however, offer the following statement on emphasizing responsible gambling tools in North America’s most populated online gambling jurisdiction:

“Responsible gambling is core to iGaming Ontario’s mandate and as such iGaming Ontario expects operators to empower players to make safe, healthy and informed choices about their play. A key component of this requirement is that operators must allocate a portion of their gaming revenue to advertising and educational campaigns that exclusively focus on building player awareness of RG tools, tips and strategies that promote safer and more responsible play.

“All regulated igaming sites in Ontario are required to adhere to the Registrar’s Standards for Internet Gaming, which are established by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario, and include limit setting tools.”

Ontario currently supports 52 live operators operating more than 70 separate gaming sites.

Still no concrete answer on player interactions with RG tools in Ontario

Although insightful as it relates to Ontario’s emphasis on RG tools, iGaming Ontario’s response leaves us where we started.

While it’s clear that responsible gambling has and will continue to drive iGO’s decision-making, it remains unclear as to whether players are positively responding to such messaging. It’s one thing to have access to RG tools, but whether they are being used is an entirely different story.

Unfortunately, this will continue to be a mystery in Ontario as long as the data stays private.

That said, a pair of operators in Massachusetts released their RG tool numbers last November. So, if those results are any indication of what’s going on in Ontario, changes to the current plan are vital.

Operator data from Massachusetts at very best, uninspiring

DraftKings and Penn Sports International (the parent company of Ontario’s theScoreBet), released data on player interactions with the available RG tools on their individual platforms during last November’s Massachusetts Gaming Commission meeting.

DraftKings’ Q3 presentation showed:

  • Fewer than 0.1% of their sportsbook customers opted to set time limits
  • 0.4% used wager limits
  • 0.13% set spending amounts
  • 2.3% set caps on deposits

PENN’s data revealed:

  • 0.5% of “unique” Massachusetts accounts utilize a time-out
  • 2.3% of players took advantage of “at least one” RG tool.

Despite the bleak results, having these numbers available is absolutely crucial to the well-being of online gambling markets and players everywhere. In Ontario, especially, where customers have access to 5o-plus operators, this data must be readily available for public consumption.

This way, the general population has a barometer by which it can measure the impact and effectiveness of existing responsible gambling strategies and messaging.

Ontario’s emphasis on responsible gambling centred around advertising

A recent PlayCanada analysis studying the content of online gambling ads during NFL games suggested Ontario is ahead of the curve when it comes to responsible gambling advertising.

The study of six contests across four different networks found that nearly one in five wagering ads focused on responsible gambling. Altogether, there were 698 ads to sort through. Of that tally, 9.3% of promotions were gambling-related (65 total). By our count, 12 of the 65 wagering ads earned such a distinction. That comes out to about 18.5%.

Of course, this is a sample, not science, but it intimates a concerted effort by gambling authorities and regulators, alike to underline player safety in advertising.

This development should come as no surprise considering the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario’s stance on gambling advertising. The provincial regulator has long expressed concerns over the content of gambling ads in Ontario. Specifically, their appeal to minors.

In response, the AGCO announced last August that starting Feb. 28, 2024, celebrities can no longer appear in wagering advertising unless they are promoting responsible gambling.

Religious group wants sweeping change to advertising standards

The talk around advertising gambling and its contents has spread well beyond the confines of AGCO headquarters.

Most recently, a trio of Ontario bishops banded together in a united stand against all forms of online gambling ads. The group, which consists of Bishops of the ecclesiastical province of Ontario, Archbishop Linda Nicholls, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, and National Indigenous Anglican Archbishop Chris Harper, called for the complete ban of such ads in a collective statement.

“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…”

The band of bishops also urged other 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.”

Photo by PlayCanada
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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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