Ontario Arena Removes Betting Ads After AGCO Review

The Canlan Sports arena in Oakville, Ontario, recently faced scrutiny for hosting sports betting advertisements, specifically from theScore Bet, a prominent sportsbook and online gaming platform. These advertisements were strategically placed across the venue, including on locker room doors, arena boards, beneath scoreboards, and behind benches. This decision was called into question after a review by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO), sparked by concerns that the ads were inappropriately targeting minors.

The inquiry into these advertisements began after a formal complaint by Ban Ads for Gambling, an advocacy group that argued the presence of such ads in a youth-centric environment violated AGCO’s regulations. The controversy centered on the location of the ads in a facility predominantly frequented by children, prompting a thorough review by the AGCO.

According to the regulations specified under Section 2 of the registrar’s standards for gaming, marketing materials should not target those underage or individuals who have opted out of gambling activities. Moreover, advertisements should not be placed in media or venues primarily directed at minors or where the audience is expected to consist mainly of minors.

An AGCO spokesperson, in communication with Canadian Gaming Business, emphasized the commission’s dedication to safeguarding public interests, particularly in minimizing potential harm to minors or high-risk individuals. They explained that upon discovering the advertisements, the AGCO reached out to the operator responsible for placing them, resulting in their prompt removal from the venue.

The issue initially came to light through the observations of Timothy Dewhirst, a Guelph resident and father of a teenage hockey player, who expressed his dismay at the widespread placement of the betting advertisements during an under-14 hockey tournament. Dewhirst’s concern highlighted the inappropriateness of such advertising in settings frequented by children, which led him to report the matter to the AGCO.

The removal of the ads was the direct result of the AGCO’s intervention, following their guidelines that strictly prohibit such advertising in child-focused environments. This move was further backed by former Olympian Brian Kidd, co-founder of Ban Ads for Gambling, who advocated for clearer messages from the AGCO and a more stringent approach towards the regulation of gambling ads in sports facilities.

Meanwhile, the broader context in Canada sees ongoing debates regarding sports betting advertisements. The AGCO had already adjusted its rules, with recent amendments banning the use of athletes in gambling marketing unless it is for promoting responsible gambling practices. These changes also include prohibitions on content that could attract minors.

Furthering the national conversation, Canadian senators are examining the impacts of sports betting advertising through Bill S-269, the National Framework on Advertising for Sports Betting Act. This legislative proposal seeks to establish reasonable limits on advertising, focusing on reducing exposure to minors and aiding problem gamblers. The discussions, held during sessions of the Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications, reflect a growing concern over the pervasive nature of gambling advertisements following the regulation of online gambling.

These developments represent a pivotal moment in the regulatory landscape for gambling advertising in Canada, highlighting a collective effort to mitigate the risks associated with gambling promotions, especially in environments accessible to minors. The actions taken by the AGCO in the Canlan Sports arena case underscore a commitment to uphold these standards, ensuring that advertising practices do not jeopardize the welfare of younger populations.

Sources:

https://www.agco.ca/en/lottery-and-gaming/responsibilities-and-resources/guides/2-responsible-gambling

https://www.therecord.com/news/waterloo-region/removal-of-gambling-ads-from-ontario-arena-sets-precedent-for-targeting-youth/article_94ddcc04-360e-5e04-8a89-c6c3a29780fa.html

https://www.canadiangamingbusiness.com/2024/07/02/agco-canlan-sports-ads/

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