Canada’s biggest psychiatric hospital, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), insists the Ontario regulator should prohibit gambling ads from appearing during broadcasts of sports events. The mental-health research facility argues that such advertisements are not allowed in many other jurisdictions and could negatively affect the population, causing some consumers to develop gambling problems. The research center recommended uprooting gambling ads during sports events broadcasts to the Alcohol and Gaming Commission (AGCO), which regulates betting activities in Canada’s most populated province.
The watchdog recently proposed changes to the gambling advertising standards in Ontario that involve prohibiting celebrities, influencers, and athletes from appearing in such ads. According to the regulatory body, such public figures hold a significant appeal for minors. Their appearance in marketing materials could negatively affect the local youth’s perception of gambling. However, CAMH is confident more needs to be done in this direction. The Toronto-based hospital and research center insists minors and problem gamblers are particularly susceptible to the advertising.
Radio, television, and internet broadcasts have been flooded with gambling ads since legal online betting launched in the province last spring. Nigel Turner from the Institute for Mental Health Policy Research at CAMH fears the ads would lead to a normalization of sports betting. They make wagering on sports events look like an exciting and profitable activity without shedding light on the fact most gamblers end up on the losing side in the long term.
Rules for Gambling Marketing Should Be as Strict as Those for Alcohol Ads, CAMH Insists
The organization believes a whistle-to-whistle ban on gambling ads is the best course of action. It would prohibit gambling-related marketing messages and editorial content from being broadcast during sports games. The ban would extend to cover the five-minute periods before the start and end of the games. CAMH goes even further with a recommendation to abolish gambling company logos and betting-related discussions among sports commentators during the games.
The leading research center insists the guidelines for gambling marketing should be as strict as those for alcohol advertising. Federal law prohibits alcohol advertisers from implying that alcohol consumption is associated with a given social status as well as from referring to the sensations alcohol evokes in consumers. This is not the case in sports wagering ads where references to the thrills associated with winning a bet are frequent.
Figures published by ConnexOntario, which assists locals who struggle with various forms of addiction, indicate the volume of calls from problem gamblers has increased since legal online gambling launched last spring. The first year of legalization saw Ontarians wager a whopping $35.5 billion on 76 licensed sites, according to data provided by iGaming Ontario. Licensed gambling companies earned approximately $1.4 billion in revenue during the period.
CAMH is by no means the only organization calling for a clampdown on gambling advertising. The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario confirmed to local media that it had received approximately 40 submissions urging for the introduction of various restrictions on betting ads.
Similar tendencies are observed outside Canada as an increasing number of governments are pushing for tougher measures in an attempt to reduce gambling harm and protect the vulnerable. As we reported last month, the Dutch government announced it plans to severely restrict the advertising of online gambling on television and in public places starting July 1.