Celebrities Banned from Online Sports Betting Ads in Ontario

The recent regulatory shifts in Ontario and the global trend toward restricting the use of celebrities and athletes in online sports betting advertisements highlight a growing concern over gambling harm.
Ontario’s Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) has taken a significant step by updating the Registrar’s Standards for Internet Gaming to prohibit such endorsements, aiming to protect minors from the allure of gambling.
This move aligns with actions taken in other jurisdictions worldwide, reflecting a collective effort to mitigate gambling-related risks.

Ontario Leads with New Restrictions

In Ontario, the AGCO’s decision to ban the use of athletes and celebrities in igaming advertising comes after recognizing the potential harm to those under the legal gaming age.
Effective from February 28, 2024, this rule extends to retired athletes and celebrities whose image could appeal to minors, with an exception only to advocate for responsible gambling practices.
This bold move by Ontario underscores the province’s commitment to safeguarding children and youth from the influences of gambling promotion. The AGCO’s proactive stance follows extensive consultations and reflects concerns over advertising content that appeals to or targets minors.

Global Perspectives on Advertising Restrictions

Ontario is not alone in its efforts. Brazil, the UK, Belgium, Germany, Italy, and Australia have all taken steps to regulate or restrict gambling advertising, especially those featuring celebrities and sports figures who might influence young and vulnerable populations.
Brazil’s Chamber of Deputies, for instance, approved a bill prohibiting celebrities in sports betting advertisements, while the UK’s Committee of Advertising Practice has set similar bans.
These measures vary in scope and intensity but share a common goal: to reduce the exposure of potentially harmful gambling advertising to susceptible audiences.

Industry Impact and Challenges

The restrictions pose challenges for sports betting operators who rely on celebrity endorsements to attract customers. In Ontario, high-profile partnerships, such as those involving Wayne Gretzky, Connor McDavid, and other sports stars, will no longer be viable for marketing purposes.  This significant shift requires operators to rethink their advertising strategies, moving away from celebrity appeals to more responsible marketing practices. The transition period allows for adaptation, but the long-term impact on the industry’s promotional tactics remains to be seen.

A Balancing Act: Revenue vs. Responsibility

The debate over gambling advertising restrictions often involves balancing potential revenue losses against the imperative of social responsibility. Australia’s decision against phasing out online gambling ads, citing the importance of gambling revenue for sports associations, exemplifies this tension.  The economic benefits of gambling advertising are significant, yet the ethical and social responsibilities to minimize harm cannot be overlooked. Jurisdictions grappling with this balance must consider both the financial implications for the gambling and sports industries and the societal impact of gambling harm.

Looking Forward

The moves by Ontario and other regions to restrict gambling advertising signal a shifting landscape in the global approach to gambling regulation. As jurisdictions worldwide recognize the importance of protecting vulnerable populations, especially minors, from gambling harm, such restrictions may become more prevalent. 

The challenges for the industry are substantial, requiring innovation in marketing strategies that align with responsible gambling principles. Meanwhile, regulatory bodies must continue to adapt their policies to address emerging risks and ensure that the benefits of a regulated gambling market do not come at the expense of public health and safety.

The AGCO’s updated standards and the global trend toward stricter advertising regulations reflect a commitment to mitigating the risks associated with gambling. By prioritizing the protection of minors and vulnerable groups, Ontario and other jurisdictions are setting new benchmarks for responsible gambling practices. 

As the industry navigates these changes, the focus on harm prevention will likely drive further innovation in advertising and promote a more sustainable approach to gambling marketing.

Finding new, responsible ways

As the landscape of gambling advertising continues to evolve, the implications for both the gambling industry and public welfare are significant. The shift towards more restrictive advertising standards, such as those implemented by the AGCO in Ontario, not only challenges the industry to find new, responsible ways to engage with potential customers but also highlights the growing recognition of gambling harm as a serious social issue.

Innovative Responses to Advertising Restrictions

The industry’s response to these new challenges will be critical. With traditional celebrity and athlete endorsements off the table in many jurisdictions, gambling operators are tasked with developing innovative marketing strategies that comply with regulatory standards while still engaging their target audiences. 

This may include a greater focus on content marketing, community engagement, and leveraging technology to create personalized and responsible gambling experiences. The goal will be to market in a way that respects the intent of regulations—to protect vulnerable populations—while maintaining a connection with adult consumers.

Public Health and Responsible Gambling

The push for stricter advertising regulations is rooted in a broader concern for public health and the prevention of gambling harm. By limiting exposure to gambling advertisements that leverage the influential power of celebrities and athletes, regulators aim to reduce the normalization of gambling and its appeal to minors and vulnerable individuals. 

This aligns with a growing emphasis on responsible gambling initiatives, including tools and resources to help individuals gamble safely. It also underscores the need for continuous research and dialogue on the most effective ways to minimize harm without unduly restricting legal gambling activities.

Global Regulatory Harmonization

The diverse approaches to gambling advertising restrictions across jurisdictions point to a potential need for greater harmonization or at least dialogue on best practices. As countries like Brazil, the UK, and Australia each navigate their regulatory pathways, sharing insights and strategies could foster more effective global standards for responsible gambling advertising. 

International forums and organizations dedicated to gambling regulation may play a key role in facilitating these discussions, aiming for a balance between protecting the public and allowing for a healthy, regulated gambling industry.

Challenges Ahead

Despite the good intentions behind advertising restrictions, the industry and regulators alike face challenges in enforcement and compliance. Digital and online platforms, where much of the targeted advertising takes place, are inherently global and fluid, making jurisdiction-specific enforcement difficult. 

Moreover, the impact of these regulations on gambling harm reduction is still a subject of study. Ongoing monitoring and research will be essential to understand the effectiveness of advertising restrictions and to adjust policies as necessary.


Ontario’s decision to restrict the use of celebrities and athletes in online gambling advertisements, alongside similar measures in other jurisdictions, represents a significant shift in the approach to gambling regulation. 

As the industry adapts to these changes, the emphasis on responsible gambling and public welfare becomes increasingly pronounced. The challenge moving forward will be to ensure that these advertising restrictions achieve their intended goal of reducing gambling harm without stifling the economic and recreational benefits of a regulated gambling market. 

Through innovation, cooperation, and a commitment to responsible gambling principles, it is possible to navigate these changes in a way that benefits both the industry and society at large.