Canadian Senators Propose Legislation Designed To Restrict Sports Betting Ads

Written By C.J. Pierre on June 23, 2023
Canadian parliament

Summer is a slower period for sports in Canada. There is no hockey, basketball, or football and the baseball season doesn’t really pick up steam until August. However, that isn’t stopping sports betting ads from flooding TV screens.

A group of Canadian Senators have had enough and are pushing for stricter legislation to slow down the storm of Canada sports betting ads.

Senators call high rate of sports gambling ads annoying and dangerous

Ontario Senator Marty Deacon introduced Bill S-269, which would require the Canadian heritage minister to create a national plan for sports betting advertising. That plan would look at ways to restrict those ads, such as limiting their number and banning the use of celebrities and athletes in sportsbook marketing.

The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario is currently looking at imposing its own ban of celebrity endorsements for Ontario sportsbook operators. The AGCO is expected to announce its decision early next week.

Deacon’s legislation would require the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission to review its various rules and policies to determine their effectiveness in reducing any harm caused by the recent increase in sports betting advertising.

She said sports betting ads have become very attractive, addictive and sensational, enticing young and vulnerable people. She also said the sheer number of ads we see is annoying and dangerous.

The legislation proposed is essentially what The Campaign to Ban Advertising for Gambling has been asking for. Last month, a key member of the campaign, Bruce Kidd, called the surge of sports betting ads in Canada a “public health danger.”

Senator Brent Cotter is supporting Deacon. He said the pervasiveness of the ads deters from the sports event itself, which should be the focus.

“People can make their own choices about how they enjoy sporting events, but it has detracted from the kind of core and culture of what we have generally embraced with respect to sports,” said Cotter.

Senator Deacon: “We’re trying to make sure there’s some guardrails.”

Senator Deacon was among the many on board with legalizing single-sports betting in Canada in 2021. She said she supported the move to regulate the industry better. Fast-forward two years, and the industry’s marketing has gotten out of hand, Deacon said.

Steve McAllister interviewed Deacon on the Gambling News Canada Show on LinkedIn audio on Thursday afternoon. That interview will be available soon as a GNC podcast. Deacon said the proposed legislation would create a framework similar to how advertising is regulated for alcohol and tobacco.

“[The AGCO] are taking a look at a couple of things fairly quickly around banning celebrities and athletes [from gambling ads] as one example,” said Deacon. “We believe that this should be a standard across the country.”

Deacon added that since Canada is a large country with provinces and territories that have their own jurisdictions, regulation should be the same across the board.

“So if your 10-year-old or 15-year-old or 14-year-old is in Summerside, PEI or in Vernon, BC, they should have the same expectations from all aspects on this to be fair,” said Deacon. “We know federal working with provincial in cooperation and consultation with each other is critical.”

She went on to say that the goal is not to ban sports betting ads. However, she said it is essential to make sure there are safeguards in place to prevent marketing from assisting in gambling addiction.

“We’re trying to make sure there’s some guardrails. We’re looking at pulling that [advertising] in, but we’re not saying, ‘no more,'” said Deacon. “It’s a balance. I’m not going to deny that, but I think it’s important that we keep that as our laser focus.”

Deacon said an outright ban would be hard, if not impossible. However, she said her proposal is an opportunity to address these problems before they get much worse. She hopes the government can find a way to advertise gambling to Canadians without creating problem gamblers.

There are also more changes she’d like to see than those laid out in the guidelines.

Deacon also pointed to other countries, such as the U.K., Italy, and Spain, which all have recently introduced regulations on sports betting advertising.

Don’t expect any change until the Fall at the earliest

Change to Canada’s sports betting advertising regulations will not come quickly. While the Senators can take this stand, it will fall on the entire Parliament of Canada to get the ball rolling on any actual changes.

A bill must be approved in identical form by both houses of Parliament – the Senate and the House of Commons — to become Canadian federal law. All bills follow a process of debate, review and voting. After a bill is passed by both the Senate and the House of Commons, the Governor General grants Royal Assent and the bill becomes a law.

In this situation, the Senate could pass a motion and require the House of Commons to take a look at the legislation. However, the House has closed for the summer and does not reconvene until September at the earliest.

And it is unusual in Canada for bills to originate with appointed Senators and then go to the House of Commons for approval from the country’s elected Members of Parliament. Normally, the House proposes the bills and the Senate is the final approval. So, there’s no telling where this issue may lead.

Senators also pushing to give First Nation ability to run retail and online sports betting

Another piece of legislation would tweak Canada’s sports betting laws. Alberta Senator Scott Tannas sponsored Bill S-268. The bill would amend Canada’s Criminal Code so that the governing body of an Indigenous First Nation could run retail and online sports betting sites on its reserve and license similar operations by others.

The lack of clear acknowledgment of the gaming rights of First Nations was an issue during the process of passing Bill C-218. That’s the bill that allowed single-game wagering in Canada in the summer of 2021. The Mohawk Council of Kahnawà:ke (MCK) runs its own gaming commission from its lands near Montreal. It has warned that the absence of Indigenous recognition could harm its economy.

Since then, the MCK has launched a legal challenge of Ontario’s iGaming market. The council also said it has made several failed attempts to speak with the federal government about leaving the First Nation out of gaming in Canada.

“The MCK will continue to remain vocal and fight for our jurisdiction in this industry,” said Ratsénhaienhs Michael Delisle Jr., the elected Council Chief. “We have been leaders in the gaming industry for over 25 years, and we aren’t going anywhere.”

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C.J. Pierre

C.J. Pierre is a Lead Writer at Play Canada. He has been covering news and sports for over a decade for both online and TV broadcasts. He was born and raised in Minneapolis, MN and is an alum of Minnesota State University: Moorhead. He recently dove into tribal casino and online gambling news. He also covered the launch of sports betting in Arizona. C.J. has experience as a reporter and videographer and has covered high school, college and professional sports throughout his career, most notably following Arizona Cardinals, Phoenix Suns, Minnesota Vikings and North Dakota State University football.

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