Two Canada Sportsbooks Fined For Breaking Advertising Rules

BetMGM and PointsBet have been fined for allegedly failing to follow advertising regulations in Ontario. On Tuesday, the Registrar of the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) served the two operators with Notices of Monetary Penalty for the infractions. 

Ontario sports betting has a more stringent set of rules when it comes to advertising than the United States, where BetMGM and PointsBet are more familiar with promoting. The standards set in Ontario are put in place to protect Ontarians, and they include clear restrictions on the advertising of inducements, bonuses, or credits.

BetMGM Dinged For Multiple Tweets

BetMGM Ontario came under fire by AGCO for a series of tweets that were posted between April 4, 2022, and April 11, 2022. For the series of infractions, the operator has been fined $48,000. These tweets were in contradiction to Standard 2.04 and 2.05

Standard 2.04 states that “all operator marketing, advertising, and promotions must be truthful, not mislead players or misrepresent products. This includes requiring that materials not imply that changes of winning increase the more one spends.” Standard 2.05 describes “restrictions on the advertising of inducements, bonuses or credits, except when they are on an operator’s site, or through direct advertising and marketing issued after receiving active player consent.” 

In contradiction with Standard 2.04, BetMGM Canada posted a tweet that said, “the more money you put in per bet, the higher your chance is of winning.” (April 10). 

And in contradiction with Standard 2.05, BetMGM Canada posted several tweets: 

  1. A “$250K Launch Party” advertisement, including a contest offer where the first-place winner gets $100K in casino bonus. (April 4 and April 11) 
  2. A “Bellagio” advertisement, including an offer of a $10 casino bonus in return for a $25 bet. (April 6 and April 8) 
  3. A “Jimi Hendrix Free Spin Friday”, including a chance to win 100 free spins in return for following the registrant’s Twitter account. (Posted two times on April 8).

PointsBet Also Penalized For Public Inducements

PointsBet Ontario also failed to comply with Standard 2.05 and received a fine of $30,000. 

Between April 4, 2022, and April 21, 2022, posters were placed on GO trains and in multiple products that included an inducement to play for free. Similarly, between April 4, 2022, and April 17, 2022, posters were placed at two GO train stations with a similar inducement.

Standard 2.05 still allows for inducements, bonuses, and credits, but they must be distributed on the operator’s site or direct-to-consumer advertising after an opt-in. Because PointsBet placed advertisements on public transit with inducements that didn’t follow these specifications, AGCO was able to regulate their advertisements and apply the fine.

Future Of Canadian Sportsbooks In Ontario

For AGCO, the priority is to “hold all registered operators to high standards of responsible gambling, player protection, and game integrity,” explained Tom Mungham, CEO and Registrar of AGCO. 

For US-based operators, this new market is full of unique challenges. In the March 7 call that outlined what to expect from the AGCO standards, the resounding themes were around an “outcomes-based approach,” and protections for vulnerable people in the Ontario market. The outcomes-based approach was focused on proactively helping operators comply with the regulatory framework while trusting them to be accountable as the companies placed ads.

Still, US operators are faced with restrictions that they didn’t face in the states. The largest change is around inducements and bonuses that operators spend huge portions of their budgets on in the US to bring in large groups of new customers. 

As US-based operators become more familiar with the market, there will likely be more missteps because of the variation in regulations around advertising and the time needed for teams to adjust to the new approaches. Fortunately for US-based operators, AGCO takes a progressive approach to applying its standards and has a series of tools to help enforcement. These tools range from education, warnings, fines, and suspensions, depending on the frequency and severity of the infraction of the Standards. For most operators, failing to adhere in a few circumstances will not lead to long-term ramifications in the Ontario market. 

About the Author

Stephanie Wood

Stephanie Wood is a contributor to Toronto Sports Media. She holds her MFA in Creative Writing and formerly worked for The Wall Street Journal. When she's not writing or rooting for the Colorado Avalanche, she's enjoying her time taking care of plants and fostering dogs.