Ontarians demand a ban on sports betting ads across the state due to concerns about how these ads might be affecting children who are exposed to them.
This is following the state's total ban on the appearance of celebrities and known athletes in these ads, enforced by the Alcohol and Gambling Commission of Ontario. For more details about the latter regulations, check out our recent news post.
Ontario is experiencing a sudden influx in the number of sports betting ads circulating the internet and land-based ads. This is not only due to the regulation of sports betting in the state as of April 2022.
However, what is also greatly contributing to the appearance of sports betting ads in the Ontarian environment, be it online or around the various cities of Ontario is the Toronto Maple Leaves' success in the 2023 Stanley Cup up until yesterday's elimination.
We must also mention how well the Edmonton Oilers in the NHL Playoffs who have so far been performing very well.
General audiences are concerned for the well-being of children who have access to these constant ads.
It feels as though the prohibition of celebrities in these sports betting ads has not satisfied Ontarians who are evidently incredibly conscious of how the diffusion of these ads could put vulnerable audiences at risk, especially kids.
What weighs heavy on everyone's mind is what seems the inevitability of the increase in the number of these ads following the expansion of Ontario's online sports betting and online gambling market which as of last year is including third-party businesses from overseas.
Ontario's media is currently dominated by the presence of such ads.
What are the risks for children exactly?
The argument brought forward for the removal of celebrities and well-known athletes from igaming and sports betting ads was that children who could be fans or even look up to these idols would be more inclined to buy into the igaming world making them susceptible to all the dangers that come with it.
This includes financial problems, exposure to inappropriate content and of course the risk of falling into a gambling addiction. But that's not all.
Studies have suggested the possibility of suicide due to financial and mental problems brought about by problem gambling and even behavioural changes in the participants of igaming and sports betting.
The issue is simply not solved by only removing celebrities from these ads.
Constant exposure to such ads, whether or not they contain images of VIPs, could still pull younger audiences into the world of online gambling and sports betting.
Ontarians simply do not feel like banning celebrities or even restricting the number of ads present on various media platforms and land-based ads such as at bus stations is enough. They demand a complete ban.
What's most interesting is that these pleas are not only coming from parents and adult audiences who we would assume are not involved in igaming and betting, or even have ethical issues with the industry.
Even active members of the community have concerns for their children.
What makes these ads so interesting to children if celebrities are no longer present in them?
According to Karl Subban, hockey coach and parent to three NHL hockey players, these ads are practically designed to strike interest in younger audiences, despite not including celebrities or popular sportsmen in them.
Be it through the use of colour, relatable content, special effects, popular music and in sports betting, inevitably the mention of big sports teams despite the ban on the inclusion of celebrity athletes, the design of these ads attracts younger audiences.
The fact that so much online gambling content is now easily accessible on platforms like Youtube and Twitch, which host millions of young, underage audience members, does not help.
Unfortunately, an ongoing debate is currently also being had regarding the presence of gambling-like game mechanisms in PC games targeting younger audiences.
Concerned Ontarians have officially set up a Ban Ads for Gambling campaign, which Karl Subban is a part of.
The plot thickens as the Canadian Mental Health Association also speaks out for a ban on all igaming related ads.
The risks are not only present for children who may be reeled into participating in online gambling and sports betting activities through ads to which they have constant exposure.
Risks are also there for players and general audience members who may be susceptible to mental health issues and addiction.
And even if they are not in any way genetically or environmentally predisposed to these mental health conditions, online gambling and ads may have certain negative effects on them.
Over the past few days, following the uproar from Ontarians, insisting on the ban of sports betting ads in the state, the Canadian Mental Health Association has voiced its opinions on how these ads are causing changes in the behaviour and mental state of people, especially when followed through by active participation in igaming and sports betting.
The rapid increase in interest in the industry is being coined a "public health danger" by critics, mental health professionals and laymen too.
Studies led by the Canadian Mental Health Association have centred on kids majorly, but have also explored the effects and dangers presented to adult players and viewers too, leading to the conclusion that ads which incite interest in online gambling activities should be banned.
The association has also not specified that this ban should only be in Ontario, leading to the assumption that this is a movement which should be adopted all over Canada.
This has encouraged the setting up of yet another campaign, separate from the one aforementioned, which is The Campaign to Ban Advertising for Gambling.
This is a more general campaign which focuses on the restriction of all igaming ads, not only those for sports betting platforms.
We wonder how Ontario's Alcohol and Gambling Commission plans on meeting the locals' pleas to endorse this ban.
While steps are being taken to protect audiences, whether or not they are considered vulnerable and whether or not they partake in online gambling and sports betting activities, a complete ban on sports betting ads could seriously impact the local industry in a negative way.
In just one year the Ontarian igaming and sports betting market has boomed and blossomed and has amounted to a revenue of over one billion Canadian dollars.
The threat presented by a more officialised entity like the Canadian Mental Health Association is even bigger than the one from general audiences, not only because of the fact that this is an official organisation leading a ban campaign, but because its argument is backed by studies and suggests a total ban of all ads.
These are certainly some very interesting events taking place in Ontario and nationwide in Canada regarding the reception of the igaming industry.
We will be keeping an eye on the progression of these discussions and coming back to you with relevant updates.
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