Offside: Ontario ban on iGaming endorsements from athletes and celebrities comes into effect | Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP

[co-author: Madeleine Herlin, Articling Student]

On February 28, 2024, changes to the Internet gaming registrar standards (Amended standards) came into force. The amended standards prohibit the use of athletes and restrict the use of celebrity promoters, including social media influencers, in internet gaming (iGaming) advertising and marketing. The revised standards were announced by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) on August 29, 2023. On February 8, 2024, the AGCO provided further guidance on implementing the amended standards (Implementation Guide).

The amended standards were introduced following AGCO consultations with a wide range of stakeholders, including mental health and public health organizations, responsible gambling experts, gambling operators, broadcasting and marketing groups and the public, and are intended to reduce the risk of potential harm to individuals under the legal minimum gambling age.

The changed standards

The amended standards revise Standard 2.03, which relates to marketing and advertising activities to registrants in Ontario. The main changes are as follows:

  • Active and retired athletes. In general, advertising, marketing materials and communications (marketing communications) are now prohibited from using the endorsement of active or retired athletes for marketing and promotional activities (athlete ban). The amended standards include an exemption that only allows athletes to be included in marketing communications if the sole purpose is to promote responsible gambling practices.
  • Social media influencer. The amended standards expand the scope of the current restrictions on marketing materials that use endorsers that are expected to appeal to minors, to specifically include social media influencers (minor ban).

Implementation Guide

Ban on athletes

The Implementation Guidelines clarify that the amended standards aim to cover individuals who have gained notoriety as athletes, including, but not limited to, professional and amateur athletes from various sports. Specifically, the AGCO has listed the following examples of athletes who would be affected by this ban: players in the National Hockey League, the National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the Canadian Football League, Major League Soccer and the Premier League; Olympians; and players in e-sports, darts and bowling.

The Implementation Guidelines also clarify that the amended standards are not intended to cover casual participants in local sports who are not recognized or known as athletes. Nor are they intended to prevent the use of game materials, the placement of operator logos or the sponsorship of teams by operators.

Prohibition for minors

The Implementation Guide also requires registrants to conduct a credible assessment in assessing whether a symbol, role model, social media influencer, celebrity or entertainer is likely to appeal to minors, using criteria that they for probable attraction and which are supported by records and control activities, whether a particular person can be expected to attract minors. Criteria include the demographic makeup of the person’s following or fan base, an assessment of audience demographic data, and whether the person has obvious or direct connections to activities popular with minors (e.g., gained notoriety through or reinforced that they operate in a particular country). film that appeals to children).

The Implementation Guidelines do not prescriptively define what a “social media influencer” is, but notes that the term includes people who are active on social media and may be known by other terms (e.g. bloggers , streamer or content creator).

Advertising outside the province

The Implementation Guidelines recognize that there may be practical limitations to Ontario broadcasters running advertising outside the province that may not comply with the revised standards. The AGCO notes that it will continue to work with registrants to combat out-of-province advertising, but expects registrants to take appropriate action to meet the registrar’s standards.

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