Countdown to launch of iGaming in Ontario
Ontario’s competitive regulated iGaming market goes “live” on April 4.
It is expected that the competitive market will have 30 to 40 operators – both grey market operators who are transitioning to the Ontario-regulated market and new entrants, some of whom are based in Ontario and other parts of Canada. While not all will be launching on April 4, most will launch over the next several weeks. With their launch will come marketing of iGaming products and the operator brands – some well-known, others less known, and others new to the space.
What does this mean for marketers?
Marketers need to be aware of their obligations to two government agencies (described below) to ensure that advertising is consistent with regulatory standards. A failure to comply may result in monetary penalties or the suspension of the operator’s authorization to provide iGaming services.
Marketers also need to ensure that marketing and advertising campaigns comply with a set of policies, including use of the iGaming Ontario logo.
At this early stage in the development of the competitive market in Ontario, marketers should keep the following top of mind:
- Advertising and marketing materials shall not target high-risk persons or minors – similar to other highly-regulated consumer products, precautions need to be in place to limit communications to high-risk players;
- Advertising and marketing shall be truthful and must not mislead;
- Advertising and marketing materials with gambling inducements, bonuses, and credits are prohibited, other than on the operator’s website, and with the player’s consent;
- Data integrity, security and protection of information is important;
- Responsible gambling is a key priority for AGCO and iGO – and by extension for operators. Marketing and advertising materials should not promote gambling as anything other than entertainment – a form of entertainment that is to be used in a responsible manner.
- Information about gambling and games must be accurate and be readily available to players.
iGaming is highly regulated. The concept of “responsible gambling” is embedded in the regulatory structure. That regulatory structure involves two government agencies – the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO), the regulator, and iGaming Ontario (iGO), the “conductor and manager” – a uniquely Canadian approach to the regulation of gaming in which operators sign commercial agreements with iGO. The operators are acting as iGO’s agents with customers. The AGCO has established its Standards related to marketing and advertising, which are outcome-based and iGO has also provided marketing and advertising policies to operators to use in developing marketing and advertising campaigns.
The CMA is developing guidance on both the AGCO Standards and iGO’s policies. In the interim, members can access an overview of the changes that are impacting marketers. Given that iGaming is digital, marketers need to be aware that other laws such as Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation, Competition Act and privacy may apply. The expertise that members have developed in these areas will help in providing services to iGaming operators.
Both AGCO and iGO will be closely monitoring operators and their marketing and advertising activities. Both have stated that if they do not see a “responsible” approach, the rules will be changed. To secure the industry’s long-term success, the CMA’s guidance will help members understand the compliance requirements, outline the importance of operating in a responsible manner and benchmark best practices.