Ontario sports betting and igaming operators will face responsible gaming restrictions that are unique among major markets. Chief among them is the restriction on advertising bonuses to entice bettors to gamble at certain sportsbooks.
“It’s basically been oneupmanship over the past two years [in the United States],” Aubrey Levy, Vice President of Content and Marketing at theScore said. “But it helps that they [sportsbooks] can’t go bombard users if users aren’t looking for it [bonuses]. I think that levels the playing field tremendously.”
However, that doesn’t mean that Ontario sportsbooks won’t offer bonuses. There are just limits on how aggressively they can advertise those bonuses to potential customers.
“The only offerings that operators will be able to make like that are on their landing pages of their websites or in direct customer marketing where the customer opts in to receive those communications,” Amanda Brewer, Country Manager for Kindred Group said. “You will not be able to scroll and see a Twitter war between operators or competing billboards as you’re driving down the highway.”
This part of Ontario’s responsible gaming approach has gotten the most press, but it’s only a small part of a larger approach to minimize harm that may come from expanding easy access to online gambling.
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Universal Self-Exclusion Across Ontario Sportsbooks
In the United States, sports bettors must exclude themselves from each sportsbook they want to avoid gambling at. That’s more practical in some markets than others. For example, DraftKings is New Hampshire’s only sportsbook but is one of over two dozen sportsbooks in Colorado. That makes it more difficult for bettors to cut themselves off from sports betting when they notice they begin to have problems.
Ontario is preempting that problem by introducing universal self-exclusion to its private sportsbook operators toward the end of 2022.
“It means if you’re betting on let’s say the DraftKings website, and you realize you need to self-exclude, the minute you self-exclude from the DraftKings sportsbook, you self-exclude from all of them,” Brewer said.
This is a feature that’s available in other sports betting markets in Europe. It’s one of the marks of a modern approach to responsible gaming. It can also help the sports betting and igaming industries’ longevity.
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Responsible Gaming’s Importance To Ontario Sports Betting
Offering easy access to products that bankrupt customers and ruin lives would lead to serious legal consequences for gambling operators. Widespread problem gambling would endanger Ontario’s private gambling industry. So, Ontario’s robust responsible gaming requirements are good for protecting bettors, but they also protect gambling companies from losing themselves in marketing competitions and forgetting to serve the bettor.
“I think a lot of operators understand that this is the beginning of something that we want to have around for a long time,” Brewer said. “It’s a marathon at this point. It’s not a sprint.”
Ontario’s marketing restrictions have already changed the way that sportsbook operators are approaching Ontario bettors. Rather than emphasize welcome bonuses, sportsbooks will have to get their unique brand values across to Ontarians.
“Sports gambling is not a vice,” Nic Sulsky, Chief Commercial Officer of PointsBet Canada said. “People love to gamble, but what we want to make sure is that folks know how to gamble responsibly. And if they have any issues or problems, whether it comes through payment process realities or through any sort of addiction issues, we want to make sure our users understand how they can deal with those issues. And we want to help them do that.”
While responsible gaming is not unique to Ontario, adopting a strict approach to responsible gaming is unique among major markets. By forcing sportsbook and igaming operators to begin with Ontario’s responsible gaming requirements, Ontario sports bettors will benefit from less aggressive bonus advertising and more authentic approaches from Ontario’s tapestry of sports betting and igaming brands.
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