With the legalization of single-game sports betting in 2021, Canada’s federal government has given provinces the green light to regulate the industry locally as they see fit. Almost two-and-a-half years into the regulated sports betting market in the Great White North, sports betting advertisements seem omnipresent, and some advocates are calling for a nationwide ban.
Being one of Canada’s provinces with the most exacting gambling regulations, Ontario will ban celebrities and professional athletes from appearing in online gambling ads as of February 28, 2024. As the Alcohol and Gaming and Commission of Ontario (AGCO) explained in a statement last year, the regulator took this step to reduce the risks associated with gambling and protect individuals under the legal gambling age.
Advocates are now insisting upon a nationwide ban on sports betting commercials, with Bruce Kidd, a Canadian academic, author, and former athlete at the forefront of the Campaign to Ban Advertising for Gambling. He told Global News that sports betting commercials lure “children and youth to become life-long bettors and risk the addictions“.
A study, conducted by Ipsos MORI and the University of Stirling in 2020 revealed that gambling ads had an adverse effect on children and young individuals aged 11 to 24, as well as vulnerable groups, including people of lower socioeconomic status, problem gamblers, and people with mental health problems. According to its findings, a one-month exposure to gambling advertising content increased the likelihood of gambling later in life.
As the home page of the Campaign to Ban Advertising for Gambling, https://www.banadsforgambling.ca/, states, it does not aim to impede gambling itself but “to see the same kinds of controls on advertising for gambling that is in place for tobacco and cannabis, since gambling, too, can be a dangerous problem”.
Besides Bruce Kidd, other members of the organization’s committee include Alan Broadbent, Gretchen Kerr, Joel Finlay, John Macfarlane, Ian Morrison, Karl Subban, Peter Donnelly, and Wayne Olson.
Robust Regulations Are in Place for Sports Betting Ads, According to Paul Burns, Head of the Canadian Gaming Association
Steve Joordens, a psychology professor at the University of Toronto Scarborough commented that with the legalization of online sports betting, all that gamblers needed to do was “just reach into their pocket, pull out their phone and they can be off and gambling”, without the necessity to visit a land-based casino.
On the other hand, Paul Burns, head of the Canadian Gaming Association said that although he was aware of the concerns associated with gambling, robust regulations were already in place, aimed at minimizing the negative impact of ads on children, youth, and vulnerable individuals. In an interview with Global News, he spoke about the normalization of gambling and that “no one is intentionally targeting minors”. He added that the legalization of single-game sports betting was beneficial, and brought about more regulatory oversight on the sector.
Professor Joordens further added that if children fancy sports, they could naturally see the connection between their favorite team and gambling. Furthermore, seeing sports stars and celebrities advertise gambling did not help, as the youth would associate gambling with people they admired.
Bruce Kidd also noted that although the legalization of the sports betting industry and the greater regulatory oversight were beneficial, he would continue to call for a complete ban on sports betting commercials.