Sports Betting Bill in Canada to Restrict Advertisements Progresses in Parliament

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Legislation to provide regulatory guardrails on how sports betting operators advertise in Canada is making progress in the country’s Parliament.

A sports betting advertisement at BMO Field, home of the Toronto FC of Major League Soccer. Lawmakers in Canada are weighing a bill to restrict how sportsbooks advertise. (Image: Canadian Broadcasting Corporation)

Sen. Marty Deacon (ISG-Ontario) in April introduced Senate Bill 269. The statute seeks to create a national regulatory framework for sportsbook companies and how they’re allowed to advertise their in-person and online sports gambling operations.

Deacon’s bill proposes limiting or banning celebrities and athletes from appearing in the adverts, restricting the number of ads that can be displayed at a sporting event, and prohibiting commercial sports betting ads during television coverage of live events.

Deacon’s bill is expected to clear the Senate after finding support during its first two readings. If it passes the chamber, it would move to the House of Commons for consideration.

Legal single-game sports gambling in Canada began in 2022 via Ontario. The gambling activity has since spread to most provinces in some form, with provincial lotteries and/or alcohol and gaming commissions regulating the industry.  

Gambling Harms

The parliament lawmakers supportive of reining in the number of sports betting advertisements believe such a regulatory change would be in the public’s good.

For most people watching these ads, they’re simply annoying. But for a number of people, they trigger addiction,” Sen. Percy Downe (CSG-Prince Edward Island) told CBC Radio.

“My particular concern is the impact on young people,” Downe continued. He says the common practice of sportsbooks tapping celebrities and popular athletes to market their gambling ops is of utmost worry.

Young people aspire for that lifestyle thinking, ‘Oh, I can make some easy money,’” Downe continued. “Are we expanding the number of gamblers, and are we growing the addiction problem?”

The Canadian Center on Substance Use and Addiction believes sports betting ads often have “masculine” language that tries to convince fans that having some action on the game makes them better fans.

“When you have this huge amount of advertising coming in, that should be expected to increase gambling involvement, which should be expected to increase harm,” said Matthew Young, a senior researcher at the center. “Anything we can do to curtail or to reduce the amount of gambling advertising is in the public benefit.”

Sportsbook Advertising Pullback

Canada seeking to restrict how sports betting companies advertise follows a similar movement in the U.S. where several states have passed laws restricting their promotional materials. Numerous state gaming regulatory agencies have directed their licensed sportsbooks to remove controversial language like “risk-free” and “free bet” from their marketing.

In February, U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko (D-New York) introduced the “SAFE Bet Act” (Supporting Affordability and Fairness With Every Bet Act). The bill seeks to ban sports betting advertisements from running during live sporting events and prohibit words like “bonus,” “boost,” “no sweat,” and similar language from sportsbook ads.

SAFE Bet would also federally exclude credit cards from being used to fund an online sportsbook account and restrict a customer to no more than five deposits in 24 hours. Tonko’s bill remains with the House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology.

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