New bill would ban Wayne Gretzky and Auston Matthews from gambling ads

The Alcohol and Gaming Commission (AGCO) is proposing a ban that would prevent online gaming operators in Ontario from featuring celebrities and athletes in their ads.

The AGCO said the goal is to minimize the “potential harm” to young people and that the ban would be aimed at “athletes as well as celebrities that can reasonably be expected to appeal to children and youth.”

In a statement released Thursday, the AGCO that they had “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, remain high.” In Ontario, the legal sports betting age is 19.

Some of Canada’s most high-profile athletes have been featured in online sports betting promotions over the last little while including Toronto Maple Leafs’ Auston Matthews, Wayne Gretzky and Edmonton Oilers’ Connor McDavid.

The changes the AGCO are proposing would require online gaming companies to stop any advertising and marketing campaigns featuring active or retired athletes. The ban would also prohibit the use of “cartoon figures, symbols, role models, social media influencers, celebrities or entertainers who are reasonably expected to appeal to minors.”

Paul Burns of the Canadian Gaming Association told the Toronto Star he feels that online betting companies have done “a good job at balancing” the building of their brands while still being responsible.

“It’s virtually impossible for minors to gamble online,” he said. “You can’t open an account unless you provide a piece of verified identification.”

These proposed changes come as Ontario marks the first anniversary of regulated online gambling.

“Since the introduction in April 2022 of a new internet gaming market in Ontario, a key objective has been to create a safe, competitive, and well-regulated gaming environment for the people of Ontario,” the commission wrote. “From the outset, the AGCO has indicated that it would assess and update the regulatory framework as the market evolves.”

The crown agency continued to say it is engaging with stakeholders until May 8 to get any feedback on the proposed changes.

Article exclusive to STREETS OF TORONTO