Canada’s most populous province should ban sports betting sites from running ads for online gambling, according to one mental health group.
Ontario should do so “due to the detrimental impact [that advertising] has on youth, vulnerable individuals and their families,” the provincial arm of the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) told Ontario sports betting regulators.
“Youth and young adults are particularly vulnerable to at-risk gambling following exposure to advertisements,” CMHA Ontario CEO Camille Quenneville wrote in the May 10 letter. “In Ontario, we’re seeing an alarming increase among students in Grades 7 to 12 betting money on online gambling. Gambling-related harms such as financial loss, mental health issues, substance use, and suicide ideation, can have devastating and longlasting impact on the individual and their family.”
Speaking of Ontario... the Canadian Mental Health Association Ontario is calling for a ban on all iGaming advertising in the province, "due to the detrimental impact it has on youth, vulnerable individuals and their families." https://t.co/KwhkuSGLw4 pic.twitter.com/xEA1t30vVz— Geoff Zochodne (@GeoffZochodne) May 15, 2023
CMHA Ontario was responding to a request for feedback from the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO), which announced in April that it was proposing to ban the use of athletes and certain celebrities in advertising for online sports betting sites and internet casinos. Stakeholders were given until May 8 to provide feedback on the proposed rule, but the AGCO extended that deadline until May 15.
Ontario is the only province in Canada with a competitive market for legal sports betting and online casino gambling, and the launch of that market in April 2022 sparked a boom in iGaming-related advertising. The AGCO said last month that it identified advertising and marketing that strongly appeals to people under the legal gambling age using celebrities and athletes as an emerging risk.
“Concern regarding the potential harmful impact on the most vulnerable population, underage persons, remains high,” the AGCO said. “The AGCO is therefore proposing to prohibit the use of athletes as well as celebrities that can reasonably be expected to appeal to children and youth from internet gambling advertising and marketing in Ontario.”
If or when the AGCO decides to finalize the ban on such advertising, operators will have three months to whip their marketing into shape. Still, while CMHA Ontario sees the AGCO's proposed ban as a good start, the non-profit organization is seeking further tweaks to the rules until all iGaming advertising is prohibited.
The mental-health group proposed several tweaks to whittle down iGaming advertising in the province and reduce the risk of addiction. Some of those measures are similar to what the AGCO already has in place, such as the regulator’s ban on marketing that tries to prompt players to play more to increase their chances of winning.
CMHA Ontario also wants the regulator to require iGaming platforms to have limit-setting tools for players, which the AGCO already requires. However, CMHA Ontario also wants to require players to actually set those limits when creating an account, which the AGCO does not mandate.
“Harmful gambling is often associated with complex mental health and social factors,” Quenneville wrote. “This requires a comprehensive approach towards prevention, harm reduction and treatment. We are pleased to offer our support and expertise to create a safer igaming environment in Ontario.”