All Bets Are On

Bill C-218 and New Provincial Standard

On June 22, 2021, the Senate passed Bill C-218, the Safe and Regulated Sports Betting Act, which will amend the Criminal Code to allow provincial governments to determine when and how to conduct and manage single-event sports betting offerings within their borders. 

According to the law firm Blakes, “Bill C-218 is the culmination of multiple attempts dating back to 2012 to end Canada’s long-standing restriction on legal single-event sports betting. With considerable support from industry stakeholders, including major professional sports leagues, this most recent attempt to remove the prohibition on single-event sports betting has finally made its way successfully through the parliamentary process. The passage of the Bill represents a significant development in the Canadian gaming landscape and is a potentially massive source of revenue for provincial governments with some analyst projections suggesting that the legal sports betting market in Canada could grow to nearly C$28-billion in five years.” 

While the passing of Bill C-218 does change the national landscape, we still find ourselves in the absence of a national standard for gaming operators. With sports betting representing over 40% of the online gaming business, the provincial gaming bodies are in the midst of creating their own set of rules designed to increase and ensure consumer protection and create a level playing field for the gaming industry and to prevent the loss of earnings to the unregulated “grey” market which is increasingly seeping into our market and taking Canadian dollars offshore. 

In the province of Ontario, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) has just made public their newly released set of standards that were developed based on a comprehensive risk assessment conducted in consultation with key stakeholders, including the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG), and social responsibility groups and will be continually updated should the need arise. When the standards come into effect in late 2021, all gaming operators registered with the AGCO are expected to meet with the laid-out requirements to ensure that their gaming site is in compliance regardless of the entity that is carrying out the related activities. Depending on the circumstances, the Registrar may hold an operator, a gaming-related supplier, or both, accountable for not meeting a particular standard and they could subsequently lose their accreditation. These standards (which regulate the operator not the publishers or advertisers) cover everything from responsible gambling, minimizing unlawful activity and of utmost interest to IAB Canada members, Marketing and Advertising. Promotional guidance states the following: 

  • Advertising, marketing materials and communications shall not target high-risk, underage or self-excluded persons to participate in lottery schemes, shall not include underage individuals, and shall not knowingly be communicated or sent to high-risk players.
  • Marketing, including advertising and promotions, shall not mislead players or misrepresent products. 
  • Advertising and marketing materials that communicate gambling inducements, bonuses and credits are prohibited, except on an operator’s website.  
  • Advertising and marketing materials that communicate gambling inducements, bonuses and credits must disclose all conditions and limitations of the offer at its first presentation on the website.  
  • Players must be provided an opt-in process whereby they actively consent to receiving any direct advertising and marketing of inducements, bonuses, and credits, and must be provided a method to withdraw their consent at any time. 

These new standards, coupled with tax incentives, not only clean up the local gaming industry but will also encourage reputable international operators to set up shop in Ontario bringing along with them big ad budgets and great tech assets. IAB Canada members working with registered entities can also be assured that these sets of standards are being met thus creating a more brand safe environment to connect with their loyal audiences. . Other provinces are expected to follow suite in the coming months and years. 

IAB Canada is continuing to monitor developments in this ever-changing space and have an information session in the works. We invite you to join our newly formed Online Gaming working group if you are interested in keeping up to date and ask you to reach out to