Ontario Looks to Ban Celebs, Athletes from Advertising
- The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario is proposing to prohibit the use of athletes and celebrities from internet gambling advertising and marketing in Ontario.
- The use of athletes and celebrities has become common in marketing campaigns among sports betting companies. A few of those names appearing in sports betting marketing include Jamie Foxx, Allen Iverson, Darelle Revis, and JB Smoove.
- Casino operators have been rethinking their customer acquisition costs in recent months with some shrinking their advertising budgets.
As the Ontario online casino market approaches the one-year anniversary of entering a legal regulated market, provincial gaming officials are considering a new proposal to bar the use of athletes and celebrities in sportsbook and gaming advertising.
The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) made the proposal on April 13 with the goal of keeping youth from sports betting and other gambling.
“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,” the commission noted.
What to Expect from the Proposal
As part of the proposal, the AGCO will hear opinions on the issue through May. 9. The commission has opened a portal for citizens to offer their thoughts on the issue. The governmental body claims to have found instances where the industry’s marketing may appeal to minors.
“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,” the announcement notes. “Concern regarding the potential harmful impact on the most vulnerable population, underage persons, remains high.”
The use of athletes and celebrities has become common in marketing campaigns among sports betting companies. Whether that appeals to minors is an open question, but the commission appears ready to stop some of these advertising campaigns. According to the AGCO, the Ontario plan calls for:
- Creating 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.
- Prohibit the use of cartoon figures, symbols, role models, social media influencers, celebrities, or entertainers who could be reasonably expected to appeal to minors. The proposed amendment differs from the current standard, which is applicable to persons that “primarily appeal” to minors.
In the second amendment, the difference between “reasonably expected to appeal” and “primarily appeal” may seem vague to some. Operators would still be allowed to advertise but with more regulations in place.
Since regulation, Ontario has already become one of the strictest online gaming markets in North America. That includes limits on advertising messaging and affiliate marketing. The province fined several operators in the months after launching the newly regulated market.
Celebrities Become Common in Sportsbook Advertising
A few of those names appearing in sports betting marketing include Jamie Foxx, Allen Iverson, Darelle Revis, JB Smoove, and numerous others. Canadian hockey legend Wayne Gretzky is a brand ambassador with BetMGM.
Caesars Sportsbook even featured Oscar winner Halle playing the role of Cleopatra in a Super Bowl ad, along with the entire Manning football family – father Archie and sons Peyton, Eli, and Cooper.
With numerous sportsbook operators across North American battling for customers, these types of efforts have become commonplace in the industry. From September 2021 to May 2022, iSpot.TV reported that U.S. operators shelled out an estimated $282 million on revision advertising.
Millions more is spent on other types of advertising in marketing such as display ads, billboards, and via social media. The Canadian market has seen millions of dollars spent as well.
However, operators have been rethinking their customer acquisition costs in recent months with some shrinking their advertising budgets. PointsBet reached an agreement with NBC earlier this year to remain a network partner while reducing the operator’s ad spend. The deal reduces PointsBet’s financial commitment but extends the deal two more years.
Other companies have also looked to reduce ad spending and tamp down the full-scale marketing war for new bettors. As sportsbooks search for profitability, more companies are becoming cost-conscious when it comes to advertising.
“In the fight for sports bettors, astronomical spending — from those incessant broadcast ads to enticing sign-up deals — is part of a considered gamble, based on projections indicating that sportsbooks will clear several thousand dollars over the lifetime of their average customer,” the Washington Post notes. “It’s a heady proposition, but not all shareholders and top executives have the stomach to endure years of losses. For some sportsbook operators, a new directive is emerging: The house needs to start coming out ahead.”
In Ontario, regulators are looking at controlling this ad blitz even more with the new advertising regulations. The AGCO has maintained that the province’s rules would be reviewed and amended as issues and new perspectives arise. That now appears to be the case.
“Since the introduction in April 2022 of a new internet gaming market in Ontario, a key objective has been to create a safe, competitive, and well-regulated igaming environment for the people of Ontario,” AGCO reports. “From the outset, the AGCO has indicated that it would assess and update the regulatory framework as the market evolves.”