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Ontario bans use of pro athletes to advertise, market online sports betting

The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) has taken a significant step towards curbing the influence of sports stars in the realm of online sports betting. Under a newly implemented regulation, athletes are now prohibited from being featured in advertising and marketing campaigns for online gaming platforms. This decision, which aims to address concerns about the potential impact on minors, comes into effect on February 28, 2024.

The AGCO's move follows growing apprehension about the role of athletes in promoting online gambling, a trend that has gained momentum in recent years. Figures like Wayne Gretzky, Connor McDavid, and Auston Matthews have been notable faces in advertisements promoting online casino games and sports betting. The appeal of these high-profile athletes, particularly to young audiences, has raised concerns regarding the normalization of gambling activities among minors.

To mitigate these concerns, the AGCO's regulation goes beyond just athletes and extends to stricter standards against celebrity endorsements that might attract underage individuals. This comprehensive approach acknowledges the potential impact of celebrities and aims to create a safer environment for online gaming, particularly for vulnerable populations.

The proposed ban is not limited to athletes alone but also encompasses certain celebrities who have a significant appeal to youth. The AGCO defines such celebrities as entertainers, social media influencers, and even cartoon characters. This broader perspective on the influence of celebrities reflects the commission's commitment to ensuring responsible gambling practices and safeguarding minors from potentially harmful advertisements.

Operators in the online gambling industry now face the challenge of rethinking their marketing strategies. Brands that have utilized athlete endorsements to connect with audiences and attract new customers will need to adapt to the changing regulatory landscape. As operators strive to comply with the new regulation, the industry is likely to witness shifts in marketing approaches and partnerships.

Ontario's move to ban athletes and certain celebrities from online gambling ads aligns with the province's broader objectives in the gaming sector. With a focus on player protection and responsible gambling safeguards, the AGCO is determined to foster an environment that promotes fair play, integrity, and the overall well-being of individuals engaging in online gaming activities.

As the new regulation's implementation date approaches, industry stakeholders are expected to closely monitor its impact on advertising practices, player behavior, and the broader perception of online sports betting and casino gaming in Ontario and potentially beyond.



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