- Ontario will launch their regulated and competitive iGaming market on April 4.
- The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) is the oversight body for sports betting in the province.
- The AGCO has released guidance to clarify standards for marketing and advertising in the province.
We couldn’t be more excited about the launch of Ontario’s regulated–and highly competitive–igaming market on April 4. Ontario is poised to become among the biggest sports betting jurisdictions in the world and a lot of that has to do with the regulatory framework they’ve created. Throw in some favorable demographics–Ontario has a population that would make it the fifth largest in the US–and it looks to be an absolutely great situation for the provincial governments, players and businesses.
I’m not sure if Ontario set out to create the best regulatory environment in North America but that’s what they’ve done. None of the anti-competition nonsense seen in so many states–online betting companies that complete the licensing process can operate in Ontario. No arbitrary limits on the number of licenses and, even better, no requirement that online gaming companies must partner with some type of legacy gaming business or financially/politically juiced in entity. Licensing fees are extremely reasonable–$100,000 per site.
In advance of the April 4 launch date, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) has issued some standards for advertising and marketing for sportsbooks and other igaming related businesses. Here are some highlights:
Promotional partnerships should be an important part of sportsbook marketing in Ontario just like we’ve seen in the United States. The AGCO has clarified a few things that promotional partnerships at physical premises cannot do. The most important element of this section–neither igaming operators or partners can provide gaming devices or other devices that would allow players to access an igaming site:
neither igaming operators nor other businesses may provide gaming devices or gaming equipment (e.g., tablet) to players to access an igaming site at a physical premises.
In a previous document, the AGCO explained the rationale:
Under Ontario’s legal framework, igaming operators are only permitted to operate gaming sites that are electronic channels. The provision of gaming equipment, such as devices to access gaming (e.g., a tablet or a kiosk) creates a land-based gaming site and is not permitted.
These stipulations notwithstanding, the AGCO hasn’t set any significant limitations on promotional activity:
The AGCO has not established specific regulatory limits or restrictions on advertising and marketing around overall volume, types of channels, or timing. However, based on our monitoring of industry activity in the months ahead, we will consider additional measures if warranted.
AFFILIATE/THIRD PARTY PARTNERSHIPS
The AGCO has made clear that any marketing affiliates or other third parties must meet the same advertising standards as the igaming operators themselves. Additionally, they cannot advertise AGCO regulated companies if they also promote non-regulated entities. The AGCO has put the onus on the igaming operator to meet that standard.
The accountability for meeting advertising standards is held by igaming operators themselves. igaming operators are responsible to ensure that any third parties that they contract, including entities commonly referred to as “marketing affiliates” advertising on the operator’s behalf, also meet the standards (Standard 1.19).
ADVERTISING OF BONUSES AND INDUCEMENTS
The most significant limitation here is one that the igaming companies are probably happy with–public advertising of ‘inducements, bonuses and credits is strictly prohibited’. There will be bonuses available, but they can’t be advertised to the general public. They *can* be offered via a gaming website or app. They can also be provided through ‘opt in’ marketing.
In addition, any type of bonus or similar offer must explicitly declare any type of conditions or limitations. Any offer described as ‘free’ or ‘risk free’ must not necessitate players to risk their own money or incur a loss. Offers must be truthful and not misleading. They must not require players to incur substantial losses and/or promote excessive play. The AGCO makes clear that this includes bonus rollover and playthrough requirements:
Game design features, including inducement, bonus, and credit promotions, shall help prevent extended, continuous and impulsive play, and facilitate low risk play behaviours (Standard 2.16). Inducement, bonus, and credit offers that require excessive play to qualify (e.g. significant playthrough requirements) would not meet this outcome.
This all sounds reasonable–it could have the ancillary benefit of forcing sportsbooks to find other ways to differentiate their offerings instead of engaging in a costly and endless ‘bonus war’ with competitors.