In a virtual session with the Canadian Gaming Association, The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario, and iGaming Ontario, rules around sports betting and iGaming advertising in the province were shared. The main highlight of the session was the clarification of the use of “inducements” like bonuses and offers. Operators may offer bonuses, but can’t use them in ads.
Finding a balance for how operators can advertise in Ontario has been a focus for the three agencies. “It’s been a complex problem that we’re all involved in and have a shared interest in getting right,” Deputy Chief Operating Officer of the AGCO Brent McCurdy said. “We’ve focused our standards on the harms as we see them.”
Operators who are working to promote prior to the launch, which is scheduled for April 4, 2022, are able to do so. They must follow the outlined regulations and put a disclaimer that they may still be in the process of getting a license.
Ontario iGaming Bonuses
Bonuses have been the buzz in most North American Markets. Operators have spent big on inducements in the recent launches in the United States. The limitation of bonuses and offers have been on operators’ mind as the launch of the Ontario market approaches.
Bonuses will be available on the Ontario market, but only within an operator’s website. This means that when a potential player is directed to the site, they can still take advantage of the offer.
The challenge for operators is that they can’t use the bonuses in their advertising. Additionally, operators must ensure that bonuses don’t cause the player to lose money when withdrawing their winnings.
For operators often pumping cash into a market with ads promoting sign-up bonuses, going into the new Canadian market could prove challenging. This is especially true in a grey market, where players may already have brand loyalty, and operators are competing for market share.
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Ontario Advertising Regulations
While the agencies are placing most of the accountability on the operators to advertise responsibility, direct ads are one area where there are regulations in place. These regulations are put in place to help protect customers who may be at high risk — underage, self-excluded, and high-risk individuals.
To make these policies, the agencies looked at regions where online betting is already legal and adjusted to fit Ontario. The primary regulations are:
- Advertising can’t contain language or public figures that appeal primarily to minors
- Advertising can’t appear in online or physical spaces that appeal primarily to minors
- All ads must contain a responsible gaming message
- Advertising must be truthful and aim to not misrepresent products
Affiliate and influencer marketing is still possible in the sector. However, all partners must also follow the same advertising regulations. Affiliates must ensure their sites do not also advertise any gaming organizations that do not have licenses in Ontario.
As over 30 companies enter the Ontario market in the coming months, Paul Burns, CEO and President of CGA, said that “if [operators] adhere to the policies, it will create a healthy marketplace for ads.” The agencies will watch the market and see how it evolves.
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Ontario iGaming Advertising Restrictions
In addition to the overall ad requirements, promotions for iGaming have a separate set of rules to follow.
For the first six months of online advertising, iGaming operators must place an approved iGO logo on all digital placements. This includes ads on TV, digital spaces, social media, and print.
Additionally, all operators will have to dedicate a portion of the gross gaming revenue to responsible gaming advertising. In the first year of operation, iGO will encourage operators to invest in responsible gaming messaging. After the first year, iGO will establish a percentage of gross gaming revenue. They require operators to use that amount for responsible gaming messaging. To show how the responsible gaming messaging is performing, operators will publish a report every six months to show the results and upcoming placements.
Another hurdle is that operators must make the best effort to restrict marketing to Ontario only. What that means is operators that are also live in nearby states, like New York, must try to limit advertising spillover. This can limit what operators call “marketing efficiences,” where one market influences another by proximity. However, the goal for iGO is that all igaming ads in Ontario are following the more stringent guidelines.