The Responsible Gambling Council praises and warns Ontario’s sports betting market

“It’s actually rare for regulators to do something like this. The Province of Ontario is known to be a global leader in responsible gambling.”

Ontario is the only province in Canada with an open, regulated iGaming market. Sports betting and online casino gambling operate elsewhere in the country through provincially operated websites.

Last August, the AGCO announced it was banning the use of athletes in the advertising and marketing of Internet gambling in Ontario. It also tightened standards restricting the use of celebrities who would be expected to appeal to minors.

These restrictions came into force on Wednesday.

The AGCO has also hit operators hard financially. In January, the company fined MGE Niagara Entertainment Inc., which operates and Fallsview Casino Resort in Niagara Falls, Ontario, $70,000. The penalty was “failing to comply with applicable requirements to minimize the risk of unlawful activities, including money laundering, on the gambling site.”

Founded in 1983, the Responsible Gambling Council (RGC) strives to reduce the risks of gambling through awareness programs, better gaming safety measures and the development of standards. The AGCO is responsible for regulating the alcohol, gambling, horse racing and cannabis retail sectors in Ontario.

In 2021, Queen’s Park founded iGaming Ontario (iGO) to operate and manage internet gaming in the province.

White praised AGCO, iGO and the provincial government for including the RGC in discussions ahead of the April 2022 launch and for being progressive in the regulations they set. But she said no one can afford to rest on those laurels now.

“More definitely needs to be done in terms of prevention education,” she said. “An increased investment in prevention education programs for youth, young adults and individuals who engage in online gambling and sports betting.

“This means they are aware of the responsible gambling tools available and use these tools to ensure they experience safer gambling. There is also a need for greater investment in support.”

iGaming operators in Ontario are now also required to allocate a portion of their marketing/advertising budgets to responsible gambling advertising. It’s a move that White fully supports, but again adds that more needs to be done.

“We actually believe the requirements and measures that iGO put in place have made a big difference,” White said. “But I would say there needs to be greater investment in the Responsible Internet Gambling Fund.

“We need a commitment from the government that it should be annualized because this is not a one-off strategy. It has to be a multi-year approach because the industry is growing and we are learning. The fund needs to be larger due to the player base and complexity of player types, it is not a homogeneous group.”

Michael Moskowitz, chairman and CEO of NorthStar Gaming, said the operator was more than happy with the provincial market.

“NorthStar’s marketing approach has always been and always will be content and insights driven,” he said. “We ensure our players have the information and insight they need so they can play and bet with confidence.

“NorthStar supports refining Ontario’s regulatory framework, including marketing policies that discourage the use of athletes, retired athletes and celebrities, and other individuals who appeal to young people.”

The RGC’s recommendation to the government was to continue to prioritize prevention education.

“We know that prevention education makes a difference,” she said. “Plus, it’s much cheaper to implement than treatment programs and much more successful.

“With a modest investment in prevention education, we can make a huge impact and Ontario will continue to be a leader in consumer protection.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 28, 2024.

Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press

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