Written By Marshall Eidinger, Elie Freedman and Suzanne Byrne
The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) has announced new guidance for Internet gaming (iGaming) advertising and marketing, leading up to the launch of the province's new iGaming market on April 4, 2022.
A key takeaway is that the responsibility for meeting Ontario's iGaming advertising standards will rest with private operators and suppliers. The AGCO will be monitoring the conduct of iGaming market participants and their commitment to Ontario's standards, which will be reflected in the regulatory approach it takes with each operator and supplier.
The expectations for operator conduct in Ontario are found in the Gaming Control Act, 1992, and the Registrar’s Standards for Internet Gaming. Over the past year, the AGCO has consulted with stakeholders and established a regulatory framework to set standards for iGaming in areas such as responsible gambling, protection of minors and game integrity.
Highlights of AGCO's Advertising and Marketing Guidance
- Many options for responsible promotional partnerships are allowed, but neither iGaming operators or other businesses can provide gaming devices or gaming equipment to players to access an iGaming site at a physical premises.
Affiliates and other third parties
- The accountability for meeting advertising standards is held by iGaming operators themselves. iGaming operators are responsible to ensure that any third parties they contract with, including entities commonly referred to as “marketing affiliates” advertising on the operator’s behalf, also meet the standards.
Inducements, bonuses and credits
- Public advertising of inducements, bonuses and credits is strictly prohibited, including targeted advertising and algorithm-based ads.
- Advertising on the gaming site: Once players choose to visit an operator’s gaming site or app, inducement, bonus and credit offers may be displayed to individuals that have first consented on the gaming site to receive them.
- Advertising through direct messaging: Inducement, bonus and credit offers may also be provided outside of a gaming site through direct marketing to individuals that have first consented, on the gaming site, to receive them.
- Display of conditions for permitted inducement advertising: Displayed inducement, bonus and credit offers must disclose all material conditions and limitations at the offer’s first presentation.
- Free means free: Offers must not be described as free or risk-free if the player actually needs to risk their own money or incur a loss to qualify.
Truthful advertising and informed play
- Offers must be truthful, shall not mislead players or misrepresent products. Offers shall not communicate products or promotions that are not reasonably attainable without incurring substantial losses.
- Offers cannot promote excessive play: Game design features, including inducement, bonus and credit promotions, shall help prevent extended, continuous and impulsive play, and facilitate low risk play behaviours.
- Responsible gambling message: All advertising and marketing materials must include a responsible gambling message.
Proper Training on Legal Requirements
As a reminder, the AGCO has strict requirements prohibiting marketing and advertising materials and communications which target, or risk targeting, minors. The AGCO also requires that iGaming operators establish measures to limit marketing and advertising to all known high-risk players. Proper training on these requirements is essential for advertising and marketing teams in this space.
Additional Commentary on Registration Requirements
For additional commentary on iGaming in Ontario, Bennett Jones recently wrote on Registration Requirements and AGCO Updates as the April 4 market opening nears.
The above update provides a brief overview of the AGCO's March 16, 2022 guidance for advertising and marketing in the new iGaming market in Ontario. It is important to remember that iGaming laws in the province are complex and rapidly evolving. Bennett Jones has a team of industry-leading professional advisors that can provide legal and strategic guidance to all industry participants as Ontario's iGaming industry continues to advance.