In the dynamic landscape of Canadian gambling law, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) has recently provided some much-needed clarity regarding which individuals could be prohibited from appearing in advertising for iGaming. This clarification comes at a pretty pivotal moment, as industry members in the province continue to grapple with evolving regulations surrounding the advertising practices of online gambling operators.

If you’re confused about the latest changes, then stay with us – in this article, we’re hoping to shed some light on the latest developments in iGaming regulation in Ontario, so that you can better understand the implications of these new guidelines. We’ve tried to cover all the bases, including considering what kind of impact these regulations might have on the Ontarian industry – so keep on reading for the big picture!

What is the AGCO?

The ‘AGCO’ is the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario – an official regulatory agency which oversees the operations and practices of different entertainment industries in the province. Since iGaming is regulated at a regional level in Canada, the AGCO oversees what’s happening in Ontario specifically. The AGCO has been around for a while now (having been set up in 1998), and although the landscape of modern entertainment has changed almost beyond recognition in the years since then, the core responsibilities of the AGCO have remained exactly the same. Ultimately, the agency aims to regulate the entertainment industry and uphold a solid set of standards, by prioritising consumer protections, and preventing any entertainment business ventures that might be exploitative or harmful.

With so many rapid developments underway as the iGaming industry establishes itself in Ontario, it can be hard to keep up with the latest changes – whether that’s understanding changes to legislature, or finding the best gaming site out there for you. If you’re looking to compare some of the top online casinos available in Ontario right now, Hannah Cutajar has over 5 years of experience in the industry and has written a handy explainer which will talk you though all the best options.

Who could be banned from appearing in iGaming advertisements?

Ever since the launch of the regulated iGaming industry in Ontario, the AGCO has kept a close eye on operators to ensure that any promotional marketing materials do not try to appeal to minors. The legal betting age in the province is 19, so regulators are closely monitoring all gambling advertisements, as it’s vital that these promotions only appeal to those who can engage legally in online sports betting and casino gaming.

The latest guidance provided by the AGCO has therefore focused specifically on preventing youth from being influenced by popular public figures. The regulator now requires that promotional materials for online betting and casino sites must not ‘use or contain cartoon figures, symbols, role models, social media influencers, celebrities or entertainers who would likely be expected to appeal to minors’. The rules went further by focusing on the role of athletes in marketing materials, stating that advertisements must not ‘use active or retired athletes’ who have any kind of agreement with a gaming-related supplier or operator. The only instance in which these athletes can feature in promotional materials is ‘for the exclusive purpose of advocating for responsible gambling practices’.

Whilst it is hard to pin down exactly which public figures or symbols would specifically appeal to minors, this particular regulation will allow the AGCO to crack down on any subtle or overt attempts to advertise to this particular demographic. It will be interesting to see how this one plays out, and whether or not athletes will continue to have a presence in advertising materials in Ontario. When working with famous figures the AGCO expects operators to use their judgement assess their appeal, including the ‘demographic composition of the individual’s following or fanbase’ – so public figures who are popular with minors should not be able to feature in any advertising. In theory, this change to the rules should protect vulnerable young people from exploitative advertisements, whilst it should also mean that iGaming operators are expected to be more conscious of their target audience.

What impact will this have on the iGaming industry in Ontario?

As Canada’s most populous province, Ontario is now home to a flourishing regulated iGaming market following its official opening in 2022. In the two years since then, the thriving online casino and betting industry in the province of Ontario has attracted over 1,000,000 new users, and conjured hundreds of millions of dollars in profits. Arguably, in order to maintain and build on this level of success, this burgeoning industry requires stringent regulation so that operators act responsibly and retain the trust of consumers.

Every industry requires regulators in order to maintain a high set of standards and prevent malpractice – from manufacturing safety rules, to laws around the sale of exotic pets or cigarettes. The entertainment industry is no different, so it’s vital that trusted regulators like the AGCO are able to have their say and maintain a safe environment for consumers. The AGCO reports directly to the MAG (Ministry of the Attorney General), so their findings and recommendations are quickly enforced in accordance with the legislature of the province. This particular set of regulations will definitely have a sustained impact on the industry, as those who work in gambling marketing will need to navigate new waters and be careful to comply so that they can retain their reputation.

By establishing clearer guidelines and expectations for iGaming advertisements, the AGCO clearly aims to create a safer, more transparent environment in the industry – one which prioritizes player protection, and encourages responsible behavior. This clarification represents a significant step forward in the agency’s continued efforts to uphold the integrity and sustainability of the iGaming landscape in Ontario and beyond. As regulatory frameworks continue to evolve, all stakeholders must play their part to enforce responsible gambling practices and safeguard the wellbeing of all individuals involved. Ultimately, these changes should have a positive impact by fostering integrity and player protections in the industry.

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