In recent years, the B.C. Lottery Corporation (BCLC) has increasingly relied on the lucrative domains of e-gaming and sports betting to fuel its financial growth. However, experts are now calling for closer scrutiny of the advertising and promotion of gambling and betting activities in Canada, particularly commercials that may target youth. The concerns have sparked discussions about the need for stricter regulations to protect consumers from excessive gambling and its potential harms.
Following the repeal of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) in the United States, the sports betting market in North America has experienced exponential growth over the past five years, leading to the widespread availability of sports betting in over 30 U.S. states. In the meantime, neighboring Canada introduced legal online sports betting in April of last year. In particular, Ontario has been identified as one of the most lucrative jurisdictions in North America.
However, as the popularity of wagering increases, so do concerns about the potential negative consequences of gambling.
AGCO’s Proposal Of Prohibiting Celebrities In Gambling Ads Receives Support
The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO), the province’s regulator, recently proposed changes to gambling regulations. The proposed changes aim to prohibit celebrities and athletes from participating in advertisements for gambling products, but they would not entirely restrict gambling ads. Similarly, the Canadian Mental Health Association’s Ontario division has called for strict rules on online gambling advertising to safeguard consumers from excessive gambling.
Supporting these recommendations, the Director of the University of British Columbia’s Centre for Gambling Research, Luke Clark, agreed with the suggestion of banning celebrity gambling ads and removing these commercials during sports broadcasts. Clark warned that the popularity of sports betting with young adults and even children can lead to potential harm and addiction. Highlighting the correlation between gambling behavior and gambling advertising, he emphasized the need for comprehensive scrutiny of gambling ads.
Clark also stressed the importance of gathering comprehensive data and conducting thorough analysis regarding the adoption of sports betting products and their potential ramifications on gambling-related problems. He cautioned that sports betting can be as addictive as other forms of gambling, potentially manifesting in a plethora of distressing consequences, including depression, financial ruin, and even suicide.
Drawing insights from the United Kingdom’s whistle-to-whistle ban on gambling advertising, it is evident that regulating such ads can lead to a reduction in their viewership.
‘Yes, proper scrutiny of gambling and betting ads is a necessity. We cannot possibly ignore the fact that there’s always room for improvement, especially when it comes to promoting responsible gambling. And, if this means limiting the number of ads, then so be it.’
Nigel Turner, a researcher at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, further supported the prohibition of gambling ads during sports broadcasts and the use of celebrities or sports stars in those ads. In particular, he underscored the significant influence of gambling ads on people’s intentions to gamble and the subsequent escalation of gambling activity. According to Turner, this phenomenon is particularly pronounced among children, youth, and individuals who are already grappling with gambling problems.
BCLC Trying To Target Audiences That Are “Sort Of In Their 30’s” Clarifies CEO
These demands come at a time when the BCLC has been actively targeting new audiences, primarily a younger demographic. In this regard, the CEO of Crown Corporation BCLC Pat Davis clarified that the corporation aims to engage individuals that are “sort of in their thirties” rather than the traditional demographic of those aged 50 and above. However, Davis admitted that there is currently an overwhelming number of gambling advertisements, some of which do not comply with established regulations.
That said, the gaming policy and enforcement branch of British Columbia has taken proactive measures by implementing stringent guidelines that dictate the advertising and marketing practices within the gambling industry. These regulations explicitly forbid advertisements that entice individuals to exceed their financial limits, imply a guaranteed financial reward, or depict gambling as a substitute for employment or prudent investments.
Despite the challenges and criticisms surrounding gambling advertising, the discussions and recommendations put forward by various experts highlight the need to strike a balance between the need to generate revenue and that of protecting vulnerable individuals from the potential harms of excessive gambling.