Important Information for Advertising and Marketing in Ontario’s New Igaming Market

Lottery and Gaming

Ontario will be launching a new internet gambling (igaming) market on April 4th, 2022. In the weeks leading up to the market launch, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) understands that those looking to enter the market have an imperative to market and advertise their upcoming gaming sites. To support operators through this transitional period, we are providing this collection of general information and guidance to ensure that our expectations for appropriate conduct are clear.

Over the past year, the AGCO has completed extensive consultations and established a comprehensive regulatory framework that will ensure Ontario’s igaming market achieves high standards in such important areas as responsible gambling, protection of minors, and game integrity. The expectations for appropriate operator conduct in the new market have clearly been stated in the Gaming Control Act, 1992, and the Registrar’s Standards for Internet Gaming (the Standards). 

Below, you will find some relevant information about the standards and requirements for advertising and promoting igaming as outlined in the Standards, which take effect April 4th. The AGCO seeks to have entities align with the Standards in advance of market launch, recognizing that they will not be in force until April 4, 2022. Their intent is clear though, and we want to convey our expectation that all prospective operators will make best efforts to conduct themselves in a fair, responsible and ethical manner during this transitional period. Operator conduct, and evidence of their commitment to the objectives of Ontario’s Standards, both leading up to and beyond the launch of the market, will be duly noted and reflected in the regulatory approach we take with each operator.

Highlights from the Standards of particular importance for advertising and marketing:

Promotional partnerships:

  • The AGCO shared an updated version of its Internet Gaming Go-Live Compliance Guide (the Guide) on March 11th that included new guidance on advertising at physical premises. The parameters for advertising through promotional partnerships at a physical premises are outlined in Section 1: AGCO Compliance Approach. This guidance allows many options for responsible promotional partnerships; however, neither igaming operators nor other businesses may provide gaming devices or gaming equipment (e.g., tablet) 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 that they contract, including entities commonly referred to as “marketing affiliates” advertising on the operator’s behalf, also meet the standards (Standard 1.19).

    Any “marketing affiliates” that advertise for the Ontario market must not also advertise gaming sites that operate in Ontario without AGCO registration. It is the operator’s responsibility to ensure that the marketing affiliates they work with meet this standard (Standard 1.21).

Inducements, Bonuses, and Credits:

  • Public advertising of inducements, bonuses and credits is strictly prohibited, including targeted advertising and algorithm-based ads (Standard 2.05). [Updated April 8, 2022]
    • An inducement includes any offer that may persuade or encourage a person to participate, or to participate frequently, in any gaming activity. Examples include: sign-up offers, deposit offers, offer of a reward, bonus or "boosted" odds, refund/stake-back offers, multi-bet offers, or winnings paid on losing bets. Please note that this is not an exhaustive list.
    • This standard applies whether inducements are advertised directly or indirectly. Indirect inducement advertising includes, but is not limited to, the display of promotional codes and/or general references that invite individuals or the general public to learn more about inducements on the gaming site.  
    • This Standard applies whether the inducements are real or perceived, based on what players could expect from viewing the advertisement.
    • Advertising covered by this prohibition includes any communication of the inducement, whether verbal, written, or otherwise, regardless of the chosen communication channel (including, among other things, links and descriptions provided by affiliates referenced in standard 1.21, player referrals, internet search engine results, chat rooms).  
  • 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 (Standard 2.05).
  •  Advertising through direct messaging: Inducement, bonus and credit offers may also be provided through direct marketing to individuals that have first consented, on the gaming site, to receive them (Standard 2.05).

    Since consent must be obtained from players on the Ontario gaming site, any consent obtained elsewhere (e.g. on third party websites) or prior to the opening of the market would not satisfy this standard.
  • 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 so that players have the information they need before deciding whether to accept the offer (Standard 2.06 requirement 1).
  • 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 (Standard 2.06 requirements 2 and 3).

Truthful Advertising and Informed Play:

  • No offers that require players to incur substantial losses: Offers must be truthful, shall not mislead players or misrepresent products (Standard 2.04). Offers shall not communicate products or promotions that are not reasonably attainable without incurring substantial losses (Standard 2.04 requirement 15).
  • 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 (Standard 2.16). Inducement, bonus, and credit offers that require excessive play to qualify (e.g. significant playthrough requirements) would not meet this outcome.
  • Responsible Gambling message: All advertising and marketing materials must include a responsible gambling message (Standard 2.08 requirement 4).

Please note that this information does not replace legal advice and all examples are provided for illustrative purposes only. Registrants are encouraged to seek independent legal counsel to fully understand their responsibilities as a registered internet gaming operator.