Companies that offer online gambling to Ontarians will soon have to try new advertising approaches as a provincial regulator moves to ban athletes and other celebrities from promoting their services.
The amended rules from the Ontario Gaming and Alcohol Commission (AGCO) also prohibit advertising for entertainers, social media influencers, role models and cartoon characters that would “likely be expected” to appeal to minors. from ontario.
What will that be like in a province that has been bombarded with gambling-related advertising, which has helped boost tens of billions of dollars in gambling since online gambling became widely legal in 2022?
The new rules “will likely prompt operators to be more creative,” Steven Salz, CEO and co-founder of Rivalry, an esports-focused betting company, said in an emailed statement.
The industry, he noted, “has historically relied heavily on endorsements from celebrities and athletes.”
The restrictions will apply across all platforms, meaning familiar faces that have helped with the buzz, like Wayne Gretzky, Auston Matthews and Connor McDavid, will likely disappear from these promotional blasts.
Advertising experts predict that companies will employ a combination of technology and other proven marketing strategies to make sure people still know where to bet.
Impact on operators
William Woodhams, CEO of British bookmaker Fitzdares, has already seen a version of this film. His company had to switch lanes after a similar ban on athletes’ involvement in gambling advertising in the UK. was announced there last year.
“We recorded a video with Fulham [F.C.] players the day before the ban!” Woodhams told Breaking: by email. He says Fitzdares replaced them with former players and pundits.
Fitzdares also operates in Ontario and may need to adjust its ads there, according to what AGCO announced this week.
“Our current advertising uses old sports images that we hope do not break the rules,” he said, adding that the company is asking for clarification on some points.
Paul Burns, president of the Canadian Gaming Association (CGA), also wants more clarity on what is allowed and what is not.
He says industry members are waiting for guidance on how to interpret the regulations, such as who qualifies as an “athlete” and who might attract children.
morning in ottawa7:20Ontario bans the use of professional athletes to advertise online sports betting
Marketing expert Tony Chapman sees parallels with how tobacco companies changed their marketing over time.
Tobacco companies once used flashy, identifiable mascots like Joe Camel, a cartoon character. I used to sell Camel products in the ’80s and ’90s. – or the Marlboro man. Chapman points out that even Fred Flintstone helped promote cigarettes. in the early 1960s.
But as these marketing methods became frowned upon and the industry faced obstacles in promoting its product, Chapman says tobacco companies “had to get very creative.”
He says Ontario’s incoming regulations are “long overdue”, though he also sees potential loopholes that will allow athletes who previously appeared in such ads to simply circumvent those promoting responsible gaming.
For him, that should be a particular no-no.
Chapman also says that a technology-driven shift toward “hyper-personalization” in marketing will increasingly allow gambling operators to create advertisements that would not have been possible in the past. Using artificial intelligence and data, he says they’ll be able to shape very specific messages for an individual, whether that person is a new or veteran player, or a sports fan who thinks they can benefit from their insights through social media. bets.
Natalie Coulter, associate professor of communication and media studies at Toronto’s York University, says that as some potentially harmful products have come under scrutiny — tobacco, plastics, oil and gas — those industries have often turned to ” classic models”. emphasize the role of the individual in preventing harmwhile softening the focus on the responsibility of corporate actors, such as lobbying individuals give up smoking either throw less trash.
By participating in these campaigns, “they divert attention from important political changes,” Coulter said.
not right away
Because Ontario’s incoming regulations won’t go into effect until the end of February, they won’t be in effect through the upcoming NFL season, nor for much of the NBA and NHL seasons.
For Bruce Kidd, a former Olympian and professor emeritus of sport and public policy at the University of Toronto, this delay is a problem.
“They haven’t really read their own press release about the damage [of the advertisements]Kidd told CBC Radio. morning in ottawain reference to the provincial regulator.
But the CGA’s Burns says carriers have contractual obligations that need time to be addressed. On a similar note, AGCO said by email that the nearly six-month period “supports a smooth transition” for operators.
The AGCO also said that “other jurisdictions outside of North America” took similar steps.
When the UK clamped down on athletes featured in such advertising, UK companies too he had about six months to adjust.
The UK ban “really changed things a lot, but its clear intention was to avoid promoting gaming to younger people, which I assume it will do,” said Woodhams, the Fitzdares executive.
Woodhams also says the Premier League move has “not stopped game companies from shifting their budget” to other spaces, such as LED boards. (Fitzdares has done the same, he said.)
Back in Ontario, non-industry observers approve of AGCO’s changes, and some expect them to go even further.
“I think this is an important step, but I don’t think it should be the end,” Coulter said, noting that older consumers may also be at risk from the gaming industry’s advertising reach.
Some sports fans feel the same.
Cynthia Mendoza, a retired professor and basketball fan from Vancouver, says she’s tired of all the gambling-related content on Raptors broadcasts.
He thinks a lot about his former students and how they might be influenced by it.
And while he’s “relieved” that change is on the horizon, Mendoza would prefer the ads to go away altogether.
From Woodhams’ perspective, marketing activities in Canada “are calming down”, and the industry received the message that some operators “had gone too far” in Ontario and created a negative narrative for the industry.
“This was not welcome,” he said.