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Canada Joins the Growing Number of Regulators Banning Celebrity EndorsementsA proposed amendment to Ontario's online gambling advertising standards could ban all advertisements, sponsorships, and general marketing containing sports, social media, and pop culture celebrities.
With the regulation of online gambling in Ontario, 2022 saw the market flooded with advertisements and promotions bearing the image of a host of celebrities. There was such a marked spike in the number of pop culture, sports, and social media icons entering the space that articles started popping up on sites like Yahoo Finance and other financial outlets outlining the insane amounts of money this marketing push was generating.
Too Much Too Soon
As with any bubble market, however, it appears that this one may soon burst. With the likes of Wayne Gretzky, Jamie Foxx, Vanessa Hudgens and even Break Bad’s Aaron Paul appearing in casino and sports betting commercials, it was only a matter of time before the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) was facing questions about the safety of running campaigns with such a vast and untargeted appeal.
Since its inception, AGCO has made it clear that its priority is to provide its residents with a safe and secure gambling environment. This safe space includes ensuring only the best operators are licensed, that all promotions and advertisements are player-centric and that no undue harm will come to the community.
The challenge celebrity endorsements present to this gambling nirvana is that there is no way to fence in the spread of celebrity-themed commercials. While they may initially be aired on specific channels during predetermined times, they tend toward virality, which will be shared across platforms like Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, Instagram and even communication apps like WhatsApp.
A post by the AGCO on April 13th explains:Quote
“The AGCO has identified advertising and marketing approaches that strongly appeal to persons who are under the legal gaming age through the use of celebrities and/or athletes.”
While this fact provides the gambling site fantastic returns on their investment in those ads, it creates a safer gambling nightmare for a caring gambling authority looking to protect youth and at-risk players from gambling harm.
Proposed Advertising Update
With these challenges in mind, the Canadian gambling authority has proposed an amendment to its core internet gambling Advertising Standards, which it believes will ensure a responsible gambling sector.
The official website explains the proposal as follows:Quote
“The AGCO is therefore proposing to prohibit the use of athletes as well as celebrities that can reasonably be expected to appeal to children and youth from internet gambling advertising and marketing in Ontario.”
To address these concerns, the regulator has tabled a proposal which seeks to enforce the following:
- Create an obligation for operators and suppliers to cease any advertising and marketing activities that use athletes, whether active or retired, in gaming marketing and advertising; and,
- Prohibit the use of cartoon figures, symbols, role models, social media influencers, celebrities or entertainers who are reasonably expected to appeal to youth. This proposed amendment differs from the current standard, which applies to persons that "primarily appeal" to youth. Advertising remains a permitted activity, provided other Standards are met.
The regulator has allowed until May 8th for operators, marketing companies and other interested parties to comment on the proposed changes. However, once the decision has been finalised, operators and advertising agencies will only have 90 days to comply or find themselves in contravention of Canada's gambling act.
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