The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) has taken steps towards a regulatory shakeup that would see a ban placed on athletes and/or celebrities appearing in online gambling advertising.
This proposed re-regulation of standards would not only see the banning of celebrities and athletes from related advertising, but also prohibit the marketing use of cartoons, symbols, role models, social media influencers, and any other entertainers who could expect any reasonable influence or appeal over minors.
Before prospective implementation, the ban will undergo engagement discussions with a range of stakeholders, who are due to be heard until May 8th, 2023 before a decision will be announced. Should the ban be integrated into regulatory legislation, the AGCO confirmed that they will afford the concerned operators and suppliers a period of 3 months to adhere to the new rules.
This regulatory focus has been manifesting itself in several nations as of late, significant instances such as the agreed prohibition of betting shirt sponsors in the English Premier League, which has been the nucleus of discussion for the Scottish Premier League (SPL), Australia’s National Rugby league (NRL) as well as the International Cricket Council (ICC).
All of which have had stances that vary in terms of partisanship in regards to such advertising practices as well as in strength of regulatory action.
What is certain, is that AGCO’s proposal has brought into the spotlight another aspect of gambling and sports betting regulatory concerns. In recent times, a heavy emphasis has been placed on both defending users from the socio-economic risks of problem gambling as well as the international fear of money laundering for either extremist or criminal means.
The protection of minors has been an issue possibly overlooked, certainly in comparison to the attention that is currently placed on the 2 aforementioned risks associated with gambling. It has been unequivocally proven in the past 30 years that the influence of famous persons, especially athletes can have a profound and seminal impact on this, the most vulnerable population.
The uptick in the accessibility and availability of online gambling has meant the ability for minors to be influenced to gamble or participate in related activities has inevitably increased, despite the regulations already in place. Online gaming is also in its infancy in Ontario and regulation subsequent to its inauguration is a factor that could greatly determine its success.
This was displayed in pushback from Paul Burns, President and CEO of the Canadian Gaming Association who stated:
It’s virtually impossible for minors to gamble online. You can’t open an account unless you provide a piece of verified identification.
Although this is the case across the industry, this has not prevented underage participation in gambling activities. In a survey conducted by the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) in late 2022, it was found that a staggering 31% of 11-16 year old individuals were spending their own money on gambling in the 12 months prior to survey participation.
Issues from this survey were discovered that would most certainly support the proposed regulation of gambling advertising. Many underage participants were being influenced into believing gambling was a “fun thing to do” and a significant proportion highly susceptible to influence stating they were unsure as to how to feel about such activities.
Even if this is perhaps not as severe a case in Ontario, the influence or even manipulation of young people’s perception of gambling could most certainly lead to a misunderstanding of the risks of gambling once they are of age, along with numerous other risks related to problem gambling that could easily stem from experiences from a young age.
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