The regulator of the competitive market for online sports betting in Ontario announced Tuesday that two operators have been hit with fines for alleged advertising violations.
Notices of monetary penalty were served to Canadian arms of BetMGM and PointsBet by the registrar of the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO), the agency said. BetMGM’s penalties total $48,000 while PointsBet has been dinged for $30,000.
“The AGCO holds all registered operators to high standards of responsible gambling, player protection and game integrity, and monitors their activities to ensure they are meeting their obligations under Ontario’s Gaming Control Act and the [iGaming] Standards,” said Tom Mungham, chief executive officer and registrar at the AGCO, in a press release.
AGCO issues monetary penalties to BetMGM Canada and PointsBet Canada for alleged advertising and inducement infractions. https://t.co/ydw1H7cD1R— AGCO (@Ont_AGCO) May 3, 2022
The fines appear to be the first issued in connection with Ontario's new iGaming market, which has already allowed more than a dozen additional operators of online sportsbooks and casinos to advertise and accept bets in the province. Prior to the competitive gaming framework being launched on April 4, the only legal provider of iGaming in the province was the government-owned Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp.
Ontario is the only province in Canada to try such an experiment with legal sports betting. The regulation of the market rests with the AGCO and the contractual obligations operators have with iGaming Ontario, a government agency and AGCO subsidiary.
But the launch of the new iGaming market has also triggered a boom in promotional efforts by the operators of online sportsbooks and casinos. And, according to the AGCO, the penalties announced on Tuesday are tied to alleged infractions of the regulator’s standards for iGaming-related advertising and inducements.
One of the standards only allows the advertising of inducements on an operator’s site or through direct channels after a player has consented to receive promotions. Another standard states that all advertising must not mislead players. PointsBet is accused of failing to comply with the first and BetMGM of failing to comply with both.
“Ontario is one of the only jurisdictions in the world to prohibit broad public advertising of bonuses and other gambling inducements,” the release said.
Appeals and apologies
The two bookmakers can appeal their penalties to the province’s Licence Appeal Tribunal, which is independent of the AGCO.
BetMGM did not immediately respond to a request for comment. PointsBet Canada CEO Scott Vanderwel apologized in a statement Tuesday “for our error made in the interpretation” of the AGCO’s standards.
“I am appreciative of the considerable efforts made by our local team and close partners to remediate the issue once we were notified,” Vanderwel added. “As I have stated in the past, we pride ourselves on our reputation as a compliant operator and believe in working collaboratively with regulators inside the legal framework. We are advocates for the legalization and legitimization of this industry and believe in the importance of creating a level playing field in which all operators contribute to safe, responsible play.”