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Ontario Looking to ban Celebrities promoting Sports Betting

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Hockey icon Wayne Gretzky, basketball star Kevin Garnett and movie maven Jamie Foxx might be getting moved to the bench when it comes to endorsing sports betting in Ontario if a new proposal from the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario is approved.

In a blog post last month the AGCO proposed a change to its gambling Advertising Standards prohibiting the use of athletes “as well as celebrities that can reasonably be expected to appeal to children and youth from internet gambling advertising in Ontario.”

The division was seeking comments from stakeholders until May 15 on the concept.

“The AGCO has identified advertising and marketing approaches that strongly appeal to persons who are under the legal gaming age through the use of celebrities and/or athletes. Concern regarding the potential harmful impact on the most vulnerable population, underage persons, remains high,” reads the proposal in part.

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Ontario, Canada’s most populated province, was the first to official sanction single-game sports betting in June of 2021 and launched the activity in April the following year. 

While there are still many “grey markets” available (unlicensed sportsbooks), many big-name sportsbooks like BetMGM, Caesars, DraftKings and FanDuel now have open online sportsbooks available in Ontario.

And that means they advertise.

Who Would Be Impacted?

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Seeking to appeal to sports fans, these prominent sportsbooks have enlisted a wide array of celebrities in their print, internet and televised ads.

BetMGM counts Gretzky, Garnett and Foxx among its spokesmen. The Manning family, including former New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning and former Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning are seen in ads for Caesars and former New England Patriots star tight end and movie actor Rob Gronkowski works for FanDuel.

This proposal would prohibit these popular figures from appearing in advertising for sports betting in Ontario, with the belief that they have appeal to children and undue influence.

The United Kingdom passed a similar statute banning athletes, reality TV stars and social media influences using the same logic.

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The AGCO is proposing this new rule take effect three months after releasing the final rules on the AGCO website to allow operators time to adjust.

What’s the Status of Sports Betting in Ontario?

Before passing Bill C-218 which allowed single game betting and online sportsbooks to enter the Ontario market, the province had a system where parlay bets (multiple bets on a single event, or one bet tied to multiple games) were allowed and pari-mutuel bets (horse racing bets) were run by the respective lottery systems.

Now, Ontario has over 20 Canadian sports betting sites available to players 19 or older. In the United States, where sports betting is approved and regulated by individual states, the betting age is usually 21.

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With Canada’s lone NBA team, the Toronto Raptors, professional basketball proved to the be the most popular sport to bet on for players in Ontario, followed by professional football – including the Canadian Football League – and then professional ice hockey.

Players can bet on a wide array of markets, including the more common ones like the moneyline, a straight bet on the winner of a game, point spreads, over/under totals and future bets like who will win the Stanley Cup or Super Bowl.

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