Fines for two companies a month after the opening of online games in Ontario

The penalties are the first since Ontario began licensing the online gambling and casino market last month, with a flurry of publicity that followed.

The AGCO oversees legal sports betting in the province, where several dozen private operators like PointsBet and BetMGM have registered. According to a news release on Tuesday, the Commission issued notices of alleged violations related to advertising and inducements to the Canadian branches of the two foreign companies.

PointsBet Canada was fined $30,000 for alleged non-compliance with Standard 2.05, which prohibits advertising and marketing materials that communicate gambling inducements, bonuses and credits […] except on an operator’s gaming site and except in the form of direct advertising and marketing, after receiving active player consent.

The AGCO claims that the alleged violation is related to posters on GO trains and at GO stations in the Toronto area which included an incentive to play for free.

BetMGM Canada was fined $48,000 for alleged non-compliance with standards 2.05, as well as 2.04, which states that marketing, including advertising and promotions, must be truthful and must not mislead players or misrepresent products.

The regulator points to an April 10 tweet from the company that states the more money you put in per bet, the more chances you have of winning. The AGCO also notes three alleged infractions related to Standard 2.05. One refers to tweets on April 8 that offered a chance to win 100 chances to win for anyone who followed the BetMGM Canada Twitter account.

In a statement, the CEO of PointsBet Canadapersonally apologize for our error in the interpretation of the standards of the AGCO.

We are advocates for the legalization and legitimization of this industry and believe in the importance of creating a level playing field where all operators contribute to safe and responsible gambling. »

A quote from Scott Vanderwel, CEO of PointsBet Canada

BetMGM did not respond to requests for comment from Radio-Canada.

In an interview, the spokesperson for the AGCO Raymond Kahnert says he considers these penalties give Ontario players assurance that operators will be held to the highest standards.

Advertising standards are very specifiche insists.

For example, advertisements cannot imply that people will make more money if they bet morewhile special game offers cannot be announced to the general public, but only to people who have consented to receive them, ie those who have registered to play online.

BetMGM sports betting terminals.

BetMGM sports betting terminals.

Photo: Associated Press/Julio Cortez

But some companies are sometimes willing to take the risk, says online sports marketing specialist Michael Naraine.

Faced with the newness of the sector in Ontario, online gambling operators don’t know where the limit is right now, so they’re willing to push it back until the AGCO tell them to stophe said.

In the case of fines imposed by the regulator, it’s punitive, but they’re not going to make the same mistake twice. The other operators […] can see it too and be inspired by itexplains Mr. Naraine.

The game should not be considered a livelihood

Although Ontario has restrictions among the strictest according to the Commission spokesperson, experts are hammering home the message of caution.

When advertising is aggressive and multiplies, it can have harmful effects on more vulnerable populations, such as young people or people with gambling addictions.continues Shelley White, CEO of the Responsible Gaming Council (RGC).

If she says she is reassured by no grace period demonstrated by the AGCOshe wants to see more pedagogy and education for the public. People need to be aware of the risks associated with the game.

For the mental health researcher in Center for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) Nigel Turner, it’s crucial to put the spotlight on who really makes money in the gambling industry.

Some advertisements want to convince people that they will make moneyhe said.

Gambling is a way to have fun, not a livelihood. »

A quote from Nigel Turner, CAMH researcher

He adds that with gambling, only companies make money in the long term.

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