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Ontario Prohibits Celebrity Endorsements In Casino Advertising

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Ontario Prohibits Celebrity Endorsements

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You will no longer see gambling ads featuring athletes and celebrities within the Ontario province jurisdiction for good. This change is thanks to the amendments of the Registrar Standards for Internet Gaming that came into effect on February 28, 2024. In the weeks that followed, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) issued additional guidance on the Amended Standards, and now companies offering online gambling to Ontarians are expected to be fully compliant.

AGCO first announced the proposed rule prohibiting celebrity endorsements in casino advertisements on August 29, 2023. In the announcement, AGCO’s CEO Tom Mungham stated, “Athletes and celebrities heavily influence children and youth they look up to. We’re therefore increasing measures to protect Ontario’s youth by disallowing the use of these influential figures to promote online betting in Ontario.” Since the announcement, the proposal gained traction, with even Canadian Senator Martha Deacon calling for national regulations to address the same concerns across the country.

Between August 2023 and February 2024, AGCO consulted with the public, responsible gambling experts, mental-health and public-health organizations, gaming operators, broadcast and marketing groups, and other stakeholders on the amendments to make to casino advertising to reduce potential harm to media consumers under the legal gambling age. Below is a detailed look at the Amended Standards that have now taken effect.

The Amended Standards Explained

The amendments to the Registrar Standards for Internet Gaming revise Standard 2.03 entail:

  • Prohibition on Use of Active and Retired Athletes

The use of active or retired athletes has been prohibited in all marketing and advertising of gambling activities. Their endorsement of any gambling company through advertisements, marketing materials, or marketing communications will now be illegal. The AGCO guided that the term athlete referred to individuals who gained fame through their participation in sports at both professional levels. AGCO shared the following examples of competitions captured under the prohibition to serve as guidance to players:

  • National Hockey League
  • National Basketball Association
  • Major League Baseball
  • National Football League
  • Canadian Football League
  • Major League Soccer
  • Premier League
  • E-sports
  • Darts
  • Bowling
  • Olympians

The use of active or retired athletes in advertising will only be exempted when the exclusive purpose of the marketing is to champion responsible gambling practices. The prohibition also does not apply to local sports participants not known as athletes or celebrities.

  • Prohibition on Use of Social Media Influencers.

The use of social media influencers who are likely to appeal to minors to endorse casino activities has been prohibited under the amended standards. While the AGCO does not explicitly define who falls under the term “social media influencer”, it guides that individuals active on social media who go by different terms such as content creators, bloggers or streamers with an appeal to minors are captured under this prohibition.

In assessing the appeal to minors by a social media influencer, celebrity or entertainer the AGCO guides that gambling providers must conduct a credible assessment, using established criteria and have records of control activities to ascertain whether or not the individual will likely appeal to minors. The criteria should include data on the demographic make-up of the individual’s fanbase or following, an assessment of said demographic, and an investigation of whether the individual has obvious or direct links to activities that are popular with and appeal to minors, such as an appearance in a children’s film.

For an industry that has relied heavily on athlete and celebrity endorsements to reach wider audiences and promote its services, operators such as Betmgm will now have to be more creative on how they sell their services and attract clients while being compliant with these new rules. Betting and casino guides will become an even more important source for casino players in Ontario to compare and find licensed online casinos in Ontario.

Other Countries With A Similar Stand

The province of Ontario is however not the only jurisdiction that has taken this firm stance in prohibiting celebrity endorsements in casino advertising. Other countries include:

  • The UK – In October 2022, the Committee of Advertising Practice in the UK banned the use of social media influencers and former and current sports stars in betting ads on billboards, broadcast media, online, and in print publications.
  • Belgium – In March 2023, Belgium effectively banned the advertisement of casinos and gambling activities from all public spaces as well as all media channels including websites, social media, magazines newspapers, television, cinemas and radio.
  • Brazil – In December 2023, Brazil’s Chamber of Deputies approved a bill that will prohibit the use of celebrities in casino and sports betting advertisements when implemented in 2024.
  • The US – Is currently considering the proposed legislation, the SAFE (Supporting Affordability and Fairness With Every) Bet Act, which seeks to ban the advertising of all gambling activities during live sporting events and ban marketing that encourages gambling activities, such as advertisement of bonus bets.

These countries and many others to follow have taken this stance, intending to protect minors from indulging in gambling as well as campaigning for responsible gambling among adults. While casino operators bring significant revenue into the Ontario economy, the risk of gambling addiction and related challenges is on the rise, hence these drastic measures.


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