Affiliates: Ontario Gambling Framework Hurts Customers, Limits Potential

Written By Robyn McNeil on June 17, 2022 - Last Updated on July 1, 2022
A pair of security surveillance cameras that look like human eyes watching as online gambling affiliates ask for oversight in Ontario

Contradicting opinions regarding the framework of the Ontario online gambling market was a theme at two gambling conferences in Toronto last week.

On Day 1 of SiGMA Americas, Doug Hood set the tone with promise and optimism.

The sports betting lead at the Alcohol and Gaming Commission (AGCO) summarized Ontario’s recent launch during his address with, “so far, so good.” Hood continued:

“What we are hearing from the industry is the framework we set up offers flexibility. So if you want to offer a bet, you can get it to market quickly, and you know you can do it within the framework that we provided.”

However, Michael Daly, CEO of Catena Media (parent company of PlayCanada), later challenged that view.

“I think the AGCO screwed up.”

Ontario should have ‘regulated affiliates’

Daly pulled no punches during a panel regarding the challenges faced by cross-border affiliates.

“The AGCO went for a really good approach, which was to limit the saturation of marketing for the consumer. Linear ads, TV, they should have looked at; sort of regulating the affiliates is probably what they should have done, which they didn’t.

“They went with a stance that said: ‘No bonus codes, no special bonuses or incentives until you get to the operator site.’ That’s like saying to Google Shopping: ‘You shouldn’t show (prices) for any of these things until the people get to the actual consumer site.’ Well, that’s ridiculous. All you’re doing is hurting your consumers from knowing what is actually available.”

Two days later, at the Canadian Gaming Summit, affiliate marketing was on the agenda again, with a round table focused on the hot-button issue.

Hosted by Nic Sulsky, of PointsBet Canada, the panelists dug into how affiliates and operators work together globally, and the specific challenges of the Ontario market.

Ontario market missing out on its potential

Panelists from leading affiliates, including Covers, Better Collective, Betting Hero and Intelitics, were part of the conversation.

Also on the panel was Dustin Gouker, the vice president of content for North America at Catena Media. Gouker led with a positive when asked what, from an affiliate perspective, are Ontario’s biggest challenges.

“It’s really great that you have a competitive open market.”

Gouker continued: But, “Operators are out there playing Whack-a-Mole. Bonuses are not allowed to be talked about until you get to the operator’s site. So you’re not getting all the customers that you can, and until you start doing that. You’re just not going to realize the full potential of what the Ontario market can be.”

Like Daly, Gouker suggested Ontario could and should regulate affiliates:

“A lot of us [affiliates] would argue we should be licensed at least as a vendor here.”

Fellow panelists voiced their agreement. But given AGCO’s approach to regulation so far, providing operator agreements to affiliates in the future seems unlikely.

Sports broadcasters slammed for ‘worst’ advertising

In another panel at SiGMA on handicapping, professional bettor Harley Redlick came down on sports broadcasters for their advertising approach. According to PlayOntario, Redlick said:

“The networks in Canada, I think have taken the worst approach. It’s a chicken s—, dip-your-toe-in-the-water approach that satisfies exactly zero people’s interest.

“If you like sports betting, hearing a 3-second superficial line because some ex-hockey player tells you Colorado’s good and then they put the point spread or the moneyline on the game does zero. At the same time, if you’re (of) the religious right or you’re with your kids and you don’t want to hear about sports betting. It’s offensive.”

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Robyn McNeil

Robyn McNeil is a Nova Scotia-based writer and editor. She lives in Halifax in an empty nest with a mischievous cat and a penchant for good stories, strong tea, cheeseburgers, yoga, graveyards, hammocks, gardening, games, herb, and hoppy beer.

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