Concerns of legal challenges

Canadian lawmakers weigh total ban on sports betting ads

Reading time 1:19 min

Calls to ban sports betting advertisements in Canada resurfaced on Wednesday during a meeting of the Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications. This came as the committee reviewed Bill S-269, the National Framework on Advertising for Sports Betting Act, which proposes a Canada-wide framework for event wagering ads.

Bruce Kidd, a former Olympic distance runner and member of the Campaign to Ban Advertising for Gambling, testified about a "tsunami" of gambling ads following the 2021 decriminalization of single-game sports betting. He criticized the lack of debate on the advertising implications, citing Statistics Canada data showing around 300,000 Canadians are at moderate-to-severe risk of gambling problems.

"The federal government must assume responsibility for this situation which they’ve created,” Kidd stated. “The most effective strategy of public health harm reduction is to ban the ads.”

Steve Joordens, a psychology professor representing the Canadian Psychological Association, supported Kidd’s stance, arguing that gambling firms are "weaponizing psychology" to normalize wagering. He noted that over 19 million Canadians have engaged in sports betting, emphasizing that those uninterested in gambling, especially youth, should not be exposed to such marketing.

Despite widespread support for prohibition, including a Maru Public Opinion poll indicating 59% of Canadians favor a ban, legal challenges loom. Ontario Sen. Marty Deacon, the bill's sponsor, acknowledged concerns about the bill surviving constitutional scrutiny.

The push for a ban gained momentum after Ontario opened a competitive iGaming market in 2022, leading to a surge in sports betting ads. However, provinces with government-owned gambling entities may resist advertising restrictions, complicating the bill’s potential impact.

Bill S-269, if enacted, aims to curb the number and placement of sports betting commercials, promoting intergovernmental cooperation on preventing gambling harm. It also suggests the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) review its policies to mitigate advertising-related harms, similar to its alcohol ad restrictions.

Jean-François Crépault, a senior policy analyst at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, highlighted a surge in Ontarians seeking help for sports betting issues, advocating for national gambling ad regulations akin to those for alcohol.

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