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Ontario Regulators Fine DraftKings for Inducement Advertising Infractions

James Murphy
by in Gaming Industry on
  • Ontario gaming regulators have fined DraftKings $100,000 CAD for bonus advertisement infractions.
  • The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) has strict guidelines against advertising of bonuses, inducements and similar credits outside of a company’s website.
  • Ontario launched their regulated and competitive iGaming market on April 4.

Ontario now has the best sports betting jurisdiction in North America without equivocation. That’s largely due to the intelligent regulatory framework they’ve created. Don’t be surprised when it becomes the biggest sports betting jurisdiction in the world due to these regulations and very favorable demographics. Ontario has a population that would make it the fifth largest state in the US and it looks to be an absolutely great situation for the provincial governments, players and businesses. Just imagine the New York market minus the protectionism and absurd taxes and you’ve got a good idea of Ontario’s potential.

Did Ontario proactively set out to crate the best regulatory environment in North America or did it just work out that way? They sure seem to have taken stock of the US market and avoided most–if not all–of the mistakes. 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. Regulations are sensible and minimal. Most significantly, that applies to the bookmaking product itself–there are a few bet types that are not allowed on the board but we’re talking extreme examples like cockfighting and quasi-lottery products. Otherwise, it’s left to the discretion and expertise of bookmakers. What a novel concept.

There’s one area with a good degree of clarity and that’s standards for advertising and marketing. Even here, Ontario has done something that benefits the industry–even if that wasn’t the original intent. That is the significant limitations on the 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. The provincial gaming regulators say this type of regulation was ‘ put in place to protect Ontarians’ but it is also to the benefit of sportsbooks and other gaming companies. It has 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 (eg: New York).

To date, they’ve been fairly strict about this. Only a few infractions have been cited but a couple of them are somewhat ambiguous areas. In early May, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) fined PointsBet and BetMGM for running afoul of these guidelines. The linked article went into detail about both infractions, but in the case of PointsBet the offense was display advertising on Toronto area mass transit that offered players a ‘play for free’ introductory bonus.

Earlier today, the AGCO announced that they’ve fined DraftKings Canada for infractions of the Registrar’s Standards for Internet Gaming (aka ‘the Standards’) as they relate to advertising and inducements. In this case, DraftKings was advertising ‘boosted odds’. Here’s the info from the AGCO press release:

In order to protect the public interest and ensure Ontario’s igaming market operates responsibly and with integrity, the Registrar of the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO), has served Crown DK CAN Ltd. with an Order of Monetary Penalty totaling $100,000 for alleged infractions of the Registrar’s Standards for Internet Gaming (the Standards), pertaining to advertising and inducements.

Contrary to Standard 2.05, between May 19, 2022, and May 31, 2022, Crown DK CAN Ltd posted or aired multiple broad gambling inducements that included inducements of boosted 2:1 odds. The promotion was distributed widely via television and social media channels. DraftKings Inc. (DE) is the parent company of Crown DK CAN Ltd.

The Standards were put in place to protect Ontarians. They include clear restrictions on the advertising of inducements, bonuses or credits, except when they are on an operator’s site, or through direct advertising and marketing issued after receiving active player consent (Standard 2.05).

Ontario strictly prohibits broad public advertising of bonuses and other gambling inducements.

DraftKings has the right to appeal:

A registered operator served with an Order of Monetary Penalty by the AGCO has the right to appeal the Registrar’s action to the Licence Appeal Tribunal (LAT), which is an adjudicative tribunal independent of the AGCO and part of Tribunals Ontario.

Hard to argue that boosted odds for new players *isn’t* an inducement. Here’s a quote from Tom Mungham, Chief Executive Officer and Registrar – AGCO:

“The AGCO will continue to monitor the activities of all registered operators and hold them to high standards of responsible gambling, player protection and game integrity. It is in the public interest that we ensure they are meeting their obligations under Ontario’s Gaming Control Act and the Standards.”

One thing that isn’t clear–in early May, the AGCO dinged PointsBet for $30,000 and BetMGM for $48,000. DraftKings has been fined more than both of these companies combined. It could be what marketing types call the reach of the offending ads that is the difference–PointsBet’s violation was on posters on GO Trains (that’s the regional public transit service for the Greater Toronto and Hamilton area) and in stations. BetMGM’s violations were in Tweets sent by their social media team. DraftKings’ ‘boosted odds’ promotions were distributed via social media and television. At any rate, I’m going to drop an email to the AGCO and see if they can provide some clarification.

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