Responsible Gambling

Responsible gambling is a key AGCO priority and central to the public interest.  The intent of this risk theme is to ensure that gaming is provided in a way that seeks to minimize potential harm and promote a responsible gaming environment.

Regulatory Risks associated with this theme include: 

  • Inappropriate advertising practices targets minors. 
  • Advertising is false and misleadingly deceptive to attract the public. 
  • Advertising deemed to promote excessive play. 
  • Players allowed to play excessively. 
  • Responsible gaming controls not designed into environment and product. 
  • Players are unaware of risks to problem gambling and options to self- control. 

Policies and Culture

2.01 Operators shall implement and follow policies and procedures that will identify, prevent and minimize the risks of harm from gaming to players. These policies and procedures shall be reviewed and evaluated regularly for effectiveness to ensure that they follow industry best practices and that the stated objectives of the policies and procedures are achieved.  All staff, including senior management staff, shall be trained on the content and application of the policies and procedures at the time they are retained by the Operator and at regular intervals after.  

Requirements – At a minimum:

  1. Policies and procedures for responsible gambling must be integrated into the control activities, forming a part of the control activities.
  2. Training for managers and staff on responsible gambling policies and procedures should be in addition to any training on the control activities.  These training programs should be regularly evaluated to include current best practice research and employee feedback. 
  3. As part of regular review of responsible gambling policies and procedures to ensure that they meet industry best practices, Operators and the provincial agencies shall consult with stakeholders, including players and responsible gambling practitioners and researchers, to assess, improve and address the harms associated with gaming. 
  4. As part of the regular review of responsible gambling policies and procedures, staff understanding of the policies and procedures, the fundamental concepts of responsible gambling and problem gambling and the impact of their job duties on player protection shall be assessed.  Any gaps identified must be addressed.

2.02 The OLG and iGaming Ontario shall implement and follow policies and procedures to ensure that their activities facilitate and support the identification, prevention and minimization of the risks of harm of gaming to players. 

Requirements – At a minimum:

  1. Policies and procedures for responsible gambling must be integrated into the control activities, forming a part of the control activities.
  2. Training for managers and staff on responsible gambling policies and procedures should be in addition to any training on the control activities.  These training programs should be regularly evaluated to include current best practice research and employee feedback. 

Marketing and Advertising

2.03 Advertising, marketing materials and communications shall not target high-risk, underage or self-excluded persons to participate in lottery schemes, shall not include underage individuals, and shall not knowingly be communicated or sent to high-risk players.

Requirements – At a minimum, materials and communications shall not:

  1. Be based on themes, or use language, intended to appeal primarily to minors.
  2. Appear on billboards or other outdoor displays that are directly adjacent to schools or other primarily youth-oriented locations. 
  3. Contain cartoon figures, symbols, role models, and/or celebrity/entertainer endorsers whose primary appeal is to minors.
  4. Use individuals who are, or appear to be, minors to promote gaming.
  5. Appear in media and venues, including on websites, and in digital or online media, directed primarily to minors, or where most of the audience is reasonably expected to be minors.
  6. Exploit the susceptibilities, aspirations, credulity, inexperience or lack of knowledge of all potentially high-risk persons, or otherwise extoll the virtues of gaming.
  7. Entice or attract potentially high-risk players. Instead, precautions shall be in place to limit marketing communications to all known high-risk players.

    Guidance: Where cartoons are used, they may not primarily appeal to minors.

2.04 Marketing, including advertising and promotions, shall be truthful, shall not mislead players or misrepresent products.

Requirements – At a minimum, materials and communications shall not:

  1. Imply that playing a lottery scheme is required in order to fulfill family or social obligations or solve personal problems.
  2. Promote playing a lottery scheme as an alternative to employment, as a financial investment, or as a requirement for financial security
  3. Contain endorsements by well-known personalities that suggest that playing lottery schemes has contributed to their success.
  4. Encourage play as a means of recovering past gaming or other financial losses.
  5. Be designed so as to make false promises or present winning as the probable outcome.
  6. Imply that chances of winning increase:
    1. The longer one plays;
    2. The more one spends; or
    3. Suggest that skill can influence the outcome (for games where skill is not a factor);
  7. Portray, suggest, condone or encourage gaming behaviour that is socially irresponsible or could lead to financial, social or emotional harm.
  8. Suggest that gaming can provide an escape from personal or professional problems.
  9. Portray gaming as indispensable or as taking priority in life; for example, over family, friends or professional or educational commitments,
  10. Suggest that gaming can enhance personal qualities, for example, that it can improve self-image or self-esteem, or is a way to gain control, superiority, recognition or admiration,
  11. Suggest peer pressure to gamble nor disparage abstention,
  12. Link gaming to seduction, sexual success or enhanced attractiveness,
  13. Portray gaming in a context of toughness or link it to resilience or irresponsible play, or
  14. Suggest gaming is a rite of passage.
  15. Offer a product or promotion that is not reasonably attainable without incurring substantial losses.

2.05 Advertising and marketing materials that communicate gambling inducements, bonuses and credits are prohibited, except on an operator’s gaming site and through direct advertising and marketing, after receiving active player consent.

Guidance:

  • This standard does not prohibit the use of inducements, bonuses and credits.
  • This standard prohibits all public advertising, including targeted advertising and algorithm-based ads.
  • Direct marketing and advertising includes but is not limited to: direct messaging via social media, emails, texts, and phone calls.

2.06 Permitted advertising and marketing materials that communicate gambling inducements, bonuses and credits must, at a minimum:

  1. Disclose all material conditions and limitations of the offer at its first presentation on the gaming site, with all other conditions and limitations no more than one click away.
  2. Not be described as free unless the inducement, bonus or credit is free. If the player has to risk or lose their own money or if there are conditions attached to their own money, the offer must disclose those terms and may not be described as free.
  3. Not be described as risk-free if the player needs to incur any loss or risk their own money to use or withdraw winnings from the risk-free bet.

2.07 Players must be provided an opt-in process whereby they actively consent to receiving any direct advertising and marketing of inducements, bonuses and credits, and must be provided a method to withdraw their consent at any time, where such marketing and advertising materials are available.

Guidance: direct marketing and advertising includes but is not limited to: direct messaging via social media, emails, texts, and phone calls.

Supporting Informed Decision Making

2.08 A systematic approach is used to support, integrate, and disseminate information to enable players to make informed decisions and encourage safer play.

Requirements – At a minimum:

  1. Responsible gambling materials and information about obtaining help shall be available, visible and accessible to all players. Responsible gaming material should include information about:
    1. How games work and about common misconceptions,
    2. Lower risk gaming behaviours including how responsible gambling tools work,
    3. Gaming harms, and
    4. The variety of support services available to players, including information and support services available to players that may provide specialized information (e.g., self-assessment, and play management tools)
  2. Information about financial and time-based gaming limits shall be made available to all players.
  3. Information about self-exclusion programs shall be available, visible and accessible to all players.
  4. Advertising and marketing materials shall contain a responsible gambling message.
  5. All information related to responsible gambling shall be regularly and periodically reviewed and updated to ensure that it is accurate, up to date and in line with industry good practice.
  6. Operators will periodically measure whether players are aware of the information provided and whether they considered the information to be readily available.  Any gaps must be addressed. 

2.09 The registration page and pages within the player account shall prominently display a responsible gambling statement, the online link, as well as the number for Connex Ontario, and provide a link to a page that provides responsible gambling materials, information, resources and support for people experiencing problems with gaming.

Guidance: The referral to the page that provides responsible gambling materials and information about obtaining help in Ontario may be a page maintained by the Operator or a third party.

Identifying and Assisting Individuals Who May Be Experiencing Harm

2.10 A mechanism shall be in place to monitor player risk profiles and behaviours for the purpose of detecting signs of players potentially experiencing harm.

Requirement – At a minimum,

  1. Operators shall include a risk profile for players at high-risk of experiencing gambling-related harm.

2.11 Assistance for players who may be experiencing harms from gaming is readily available and systematically provided.

Requirements – At a minimum:

  1. All employees who interact with players shall be knowledgeable about a variety of help resources and are able to provide that information upon request from players or affected others.
  2. Players shall be provided with easily accessible contact information of at least one organization in Ontario, dedicated to treating and assisting people experiencing harm from gaming.
  3. Operators shall develop and implement responsible gambling policies, procedures and training to assess, detect and address situations where players may be experiencing harm. In these cases, operators shall implement interventions that are tailored to the severity of the situations in which players may be experiencing harm.
  4. Responsible gambling policies shall be reviewed periodically for effectiveness.
  5. Live customer support shall be made available 24/7.

Employee Training

2.12 Employees shall understand the importance of responsible gambling and how their jobs impact player protection as well as the fundamental concepts of responsible gambling and problem gambling.

Requirements – At a minimum:

  1. All employees shall receive mandatory training which is refreshed regularly, to include current best practice research and employee feedback.
  2.  All employees who interact with players shall receive training in a program designed to identify and respond appropriately to players who may be showing signs of problem gambling and to assist players who may be experiencing harm from gaming.
  3. Training for managers and staff for responsible gambling policies and procedures should be in addition to any training on the control activities.  These training programs should be regularly evaluated to include current best practice research and employee feedback. 
  4. Employees shall understand the operator’s commitment to responsible gambling and how it is integrated throughout operations.
  5. Employees shall understand the harms associated with gaming as well as essential prevention and mitigation concepts.

Self-Exclusion and Breaks in Play

2.13 Individuals shall have the option to take a break in play, in addition to a formal self-exclusion program. (Also applicable to Gaming-Related Suppliers)

Requirements – At a minimum:

  1. Users shall have the option to initiate a short-term break in their play.
  2. Operators shall provide the option to take a one day, one week, one month, two month, or three month break.
  3. Once an individual initiates a break, they shall be unable to place further wagers during the time period of the break.

2.14  Operators shall provide a voluntary self-exclusion program for their site.
Requirements – At a minimum:

  1. Operators’ self-exclusion programs shall be well promoted and easily accessible.
  2. The self-exclusion registration process shall be efficient and support-oriented, and shall include the provision of resources and information about where to get help.
  3. The terms and conditions of the self-exclusion program shall be clearly worded, including: the player’s obligations under the agreement, the consequences of self exclusion, and the process for returning to play safely.
  4. Clearly defined term lengths that must include options for terms lasting six months, one year and five years.
  5. Once an individual self-excludes, they shall be immediately logged out of their account and unable to login in for the duration of their exclusion.
  6. Operators must, as soon as is practicable, take all reasonable steps to prevent any marketing material, incentives or promotions from being sent to the self-excluded individual for the duration of the self-exclusion period. 
  7. Operators shall cancel all future game transactions for self-excluded individuals.
  8. Operators must maintain a register of those excluded with appropriate records (name, address, other details, and any membership or account details that may be held by the registrant)
  9. Operators shall take active steps to identify, and if required, remove self-excluded persons from the gaming site when they are found to be in breach of their self-exclusion agreement.
  10. A mechanism shall be in place to facilitate the return of the balance of unused funds to a self-excluded individual, when requested by the individual.

Note: Once directed by the Registrar, Operators will be required to participate in a coordinated, centralized self-exclusion program, that shall be in place to allow players to automatically exclude themselves from all online Operator platforms, including OLG.

Game Design and Features

2.15 Game designs and features shall be clear and shall not mislead the player. This Standard does not apply to sport and event betting products. (Also applicable to Gaming-Related Suppliers)

Requirements – At a minimum:

  1. Game design shall not give the player the perception that speed of play or skill affects the outcome of the game when it does not.
  2. After the selection of game outcome, the game shall not make a variable secondary decision which affects the result shown to the player. If the outcome is chosen that the game will lose then the game shall not substitute a particular type of loss to show to the player (i.e. near miss).
  3. Where the game requires a pre-determined pattern (for example, hidden prizes on a map), the locations of the winning spots shall not change during play, except as provided for in the terms governing play.
  4. Games shall not display amounts or symbols that are unachievable.
  5. Free-to-play games available through the gaming site or related websites shall not misrepresent or mislead players as to the likelihood of winning or prize distribution of similar games, and shall have the same odds of winning as games played for money.
  6. The denomination of each credit shall be clearly displayed on game screens.

2.15.1 The method of making bets in sport and event betting must be straightforward and understandable. Information must be made available so that the player is clearly informed of the details of the bet prior to making the bet. All selections in a bet must be displayed to the player. (Also applicable to Gaming-Related Suppliers) [Amended: February, 2022]

Requirements — At a minimum:

  1. Bets on multiple events (parlays) must be identified as parlays.
  2. The player must be informed that a bet selected by the player has or has not been accepted.
  3. Where the player has placed a bet and the odds, payout odds, or prices of the bet change prior to the bet being confirmed by the operator, the player must have the option of confirming or withdrawing the bet (with refund of the bet). This requirement may not apply to an option for automatic acceptance of changes in bets described in Requirement 4 below.
  4. Where operators offer an option of automatic acceptance of changes in bets offered, the player must manually opt in to activate this this functionality and must be able to opt out at any time.  The details of this auto-accept function and any options for the function must be clearly explained to the player prior to their consent to the application of the function.  
  5. The player must be informed of the period in which bets can be made on an event or series of events and bets cannot be placed after the close of the betting period.
  6. Free to play sport and event betting games must not mislead players about the odds, payouts or any element of a bet for value available in sport and event betting.
  7. All bets and payouts must be expressed in Canadian currency.

Guidance: This Standard is not intended to prohibit or preclude in-play betting.

2.15.2 Players must be able to access information regarding available sport and event bets without having to place a bet. This information includes: 

Requirements — At a minimum:

  1. Information on the bets available;
  2. Odds, payouts and prices for available bets;
  3. In a dynamic betting environment, including those where individuals’ wagers are gathered into pools:
    1. The most up-to-date odds and payouts;
    2. The up-to-date total value of the pool for market pools and pool bets that are offered.

2.15.3 Reputable and legitimate data source(s) must be used to determine the outcome of a bet. These data source(s) shall be made available to the player upon request. (Also applicable to Gaming-Related Suppliers) [Amended: February, 2022]

2.16 Game designs and features shall help to prevent extended, continuous and impulsive play and facilitate low risk play behaviours. (Also applicable to Gaming-Related Suppliers)

Requirements – At a minimum:

  1. Games shall not encourage players to chase their losses, or increase the amount they have decided to gamble, or continue to gamble after they have indicated that they want to stop.
  2. Games shall not provide auto-play features for slots.
  3. Game play shall be initiated only after the player has placed a wager and activated play.  No player shall be forced into game play by selecting the game for review or reviewing information about how the game is played or how bets are made.
  4. A player should commit to each game individually, releasing and then depressing the ‘start button’ or taking equivalent action.  Continued contact with a button, key or screen should not initiate a new game.

2.17 The gaming system must not offer functionality which facilitates playing multiple slots games at the same time. This includes, but is not limited to, split screen or multi-screen functionality. (Also applicable to Gaming-Related Suppliers)

Combining multiple slots titles in a way which facilitates simultaneous play is not permitted.

2.18 It must be a minimum of 2.5 seconds from the time a game is started until the next game cycle can be commenced. It must always be necessary to release and then depress the ‘start button’ or take equivalent action to commence a game cycle. (Also applicable to Gaming-Related Suppliers)

A game cycle starts when a player depresses the ‘start button’ or takes equivalent action to initiate the game and ends when all money or money’s worth staked or won during the game has been either lost or delivered to, or made available for collection by the player and the start button or equivalent becomes available to initiate the next game.

A player should commit to each game cycle individually, continued contact with a button, key or screen should not initiate a new game cycle.

2.19 For slots games, the gaming system must not permit a customer to reduce the time until the result is presented. (Also applicable to Gaming-Related Suppliers)

Requirements: At a minimum:

  1. Features such as turbo, quick spin and slam stop are not permitted. This is not intended to be an exhaustive list but to illustrate the types of features the requirement is referring to.

Note: This Standard does not apply to bonus/feature games where an additional stake is not wagered.

2.20 For slots games, the gaming system must not use auditory or visual effects that are associated with a win for returns which are less than or equal to last total amount wagered. (Also applicable to Gaming-Related Suppliers) [Amended: February, 2022]

2.21 For slots games, gaming sessions must clearly display a customer’s net position (the total of all winnings minus the sum of all losses since the start of the session), in Canadian dollars. (Also applicable to Gaming-Related Suppliers) [Amended: February, 2022]

2.22 Players shall have the means to track the passage of time. (Also applicable to Gaming-Related Suppliers)

Limit Setting Features

2.23 Players shall be provided with an easy and obvious way to set gaming limits (financial and time-based) upon registration and at any time after registration. (Also applicable to Gaming-Related Suppliers) [Amended: February, 2022]

Requirements – At a minimum:

  1. Players shall be provided with the option to set loss and deposit limits during registration.
  2. Operators must offer players the options of setting limits on any number of the following:
    1. Deposit limits, where the amount a player deposits into their account is limited over a period of time chosen by the player,
    2. Loss limits, where the amount lost (i.e., winnings subtracted from the amount spent) is restricted.
  3. The period or duration of the financial or time-based limits offered must include, 24 hours, 7 days and one month. Where the player sets simultaneous periods (e.g., a deposit limit for a day and for a week), the lowest limit must apply. 
  4. Financial and time limit functions must be easy to find, reach and initiate or change at any time after the player has registered and opened an account.

2.24 Where a gaming limit has been previously established by a player, a request by the player to relax or eliminate that limit shall only be implemented after a cooling-off period of at least 24 hours. (Also applicable to Gaming-Related Suppliers) 

Requirements – At a minimum:

  1. The Operator must not relax or eliminate a gaming limit without a request from the player and only after the expiry of the cooling-off period.
  2. Gaming limits must be enforced by the gaming system.