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Sidelined: Ontario Ban on Athlete and Celebrity iGaming Endorsements Takes Effect

By Bryson A. Stokes, Mike Maodus, Alex MacMillan and Madeleine Herlin (Articling Student)
February 29, 2024

On February 28, 2024, amendments to the Registrar Standards for Internet Gaming (Amended Standards) took effect. The Amended Standards prohibit the use of athletes and restrict the use of celebrity promoters, including social media influencers, in internet-gaming (iGaming) advertising and marketing. The Amended Standards were announced by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) on August 29, 2023. The AGCO provided further guidance on the implementation of the Amended Standards on February 8, 2024 (Implementation Guidance).

The Amended Standards were introduced following AGCO consultations with a broad range of stakeholders, including mental-health and public-health organizations, responsible gambling experts, gaming operators, broadcast and marketing groups, and the public, and are intended to reduce the risk of potential harm to those under the legal gaming age.

The Amended Standards

The Amended Standards revise Standard 2.03, which relates to marketing and advertising efforts for registrants in Ontario. The highlights of the amendments are as follows: 

  • Active and Retired Athletes. Generally speaking, advertising, marketing materials and communications (marketing communications) are now prohibited from using the endorsement of active or retired athletes (Athlete Prohibition) in marketing and advertising efforts. The Amended Standards include an exemption allowing athletes to be included in marketing communications only if the exclusive purpose is to advocate for responsible gambling practices. 
  • Social Media Influencers. The Amended Standards broaden the scope of the current restrictions on marketing materials utilizing endorsers who would likely be expected to appeal to minors and now specifically capture social media influencers as well (Minors Prohibition).

Implementation Guidance

Athlete Prohibition

The Implementation Guidance clarifies that the Amended Standards are intended to capture individuals who gained notoriety as athletes, including but not limited to professional and amateur athletes from various sports. The AGCO has specifically listed the following examples of athletes that would be captured by this prohibition: players in the National Hockey League, National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball, National Football League, Canadian Football League, Major League Soccer and Premier League; Olympians; and players in e-sports, darts and bowling.

The Implementation Guidance further clarifies that the Amended Standards are not intended to capture casual participants in local sports who are not recognized or known as athletes. They are also not intended to prevent the use of game footage, operator logo placements or the sponsorship of teams by operators.

Minors Prohibition

The Implementation Guidance further provides that in evaluating whether a symbol, role model, social media influencer, celebrity or entertainer is likely to appeal to minors, registrants must conduct a credible assessment, using criteria they have established for likely appeal, supported by records and control activities of whether a particular individual is likely to be expected to appeal to minors. The criteria would include the demographic composition of the individual’s following or fan base, an assessment of data on audience demographics and whether the individual has obvious or direct links to activities that are popular with minors (e.g., gained or enhanced their notoriety for being in a film that appeals to children).

The Implementation Guidance does not prescriptively define what constitutes a “social media influencer” but does note that the term includes individuals active on social media who may be known by different terms (e.g., bloggers, streamers or content creators).

Out-of-Province Advertisements

The Implementation Guidance acknowledges there may be practical limitations with respect to Ontario broadcasters displaying out-of-province advertisements that may not meet the Amended Standards. The AGCO notes it will continue to work with registrants to address out-of-province advertisements but expects registrants to take reasonable measures to meet the Registrar’s Standards.

For further information, please contact:

or any other member of our Gaming group.