Top online sports betting and igaming brand, DraftKings, has been fined by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario for violating advertising regulations in the province. The regulator issued a Notice of Monetary Penalty totaling $100,000 CAD. According to the AGCO, the operator had breached the Registrar’s Standards for Internet Gaming, specifically Standard 2.05.
Standard 2.05 prohibits companies from distributing advertisements and marketing material that display gambling inducements, bonuses and credits except for on their own websites or directly to customers. The only other opportunity to provide gambling inducements is if a player actively provides their consent.
DraftKings Canada had been advertising boosted odds and other ‘broad gambling inducements’ on Canadian television and their social media, contrary to Standard 2.05. The ads mainly pertained to NHL games during the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The brand will have the right to appeal the fine if they choose to go to the License Appeal Tribunal (LAT), an adjudicative tribunal which is independent of the AGCO. DraftKings Canada has yet to make any indications that they will be making an appeal.
Confusion Over Advertising Standards
Only a month after launch, two other popular sports betting sites were fined by the AGCO for ad violations. BetMGM and PointsBet, were fined in early May for CA$48,000 and CA$30,000 respectively. Much like DraftKings, the AGCO cited violations of Standard 2.05 when issuing the penalties to both BetMGM and PointsBet.
BetMGM was fined for a “$250K Launch Party” advertisement, a casino bonus advertisement and a tweet stating that “the more money you put in per bet, the higher your chance is of winning.”
PointsBet Canada took on fines for an inducement which implied players could play for free on the Toronto area’s GO Transit trains, train stations.
Both sites issued apologies for misinterpreting the standards of practice but did state that there was a lack of clarity and looked to the AGCO for guidance. Later in June of 2022, during the Canadian Gaming Summit, many top operators sought clarification from regulators on a number of their standards, including advertising and inducements. Closed door discussions were had and it was believed that regulators and operators had come to a basic understanding.
Clearly there is still some lack of communication which must be ironed out between the AGCO and online gambling operators in Ontario. The AGCO will likely keep a hard stance on inducements and advertising, while operators will look to provide marketing for their products between the cracks of the standards.