According to reports, the launch of a regulated internet gambling market in Ontario led to an increase in advertising from sportsbook operators vying for the attention of potential customers. Broadcast executives have stated that the outcry over the advertising barrage from online sports betting sites has now subsided in Ontario, as has the volume of commercials for “free-to-play” platforms by operators conducting business outside of the regulated iGaming market in Canada. During a panel at a Canadian Gaming Association event in Toronto, it was revealed that the decline in .net ads and related complaints had occurred. Ontario sports betting is now offered by over 30 regulated sites in Canada’s most populous province, which has made a significant impact.
Catherine MacLeod, president and CEO of thinkTV, a marketing and research association that reviews ads to ensure they comply with regulations, stated that the amount of advertising devoted to online gambling is relatively low. According to MacLeod, they screened 347 gambling ads last year, which equated to around 1% of thinkTV’s overall workload of roughly 33,000 commercials. Furthermore, in the past, approximately 2% to 4% of ads cleared were for “free-to-play” or .net gaming sites, which may be associated with real-money sites that are operated by companies not regulated in Canada. Those ads now represent less than 0.2% of what thinkTV has cleared in 2022 and thus far in 2023. MacLeod noted that the regulated market is certainly making a difference.
The explosion of advertising from sportsbook operators seeking to grab the attention of potential customers occurred when Ontario launched a regulated market for internet gambling. Operators also sponsored segments before and during games, occupying broadcasting real estate. While the promotion irritated some viewers, it also enabled operators to introduce themselves to Ontarians and advise them about legal sports betting options in the province. This was critical in a market where “grey” operators had a strong foothold, despite being unregulated by the province. Although those unregulated operators still exist, they are now less prevalent.
At the CGA event, it was reported that there was less annoyance about the advertising than expected. Alan Dark, senior vice president of revenue at Rogers Sports and Media, noted that Rogers Communications Inc. receives thousands of comments from viewers each year, with only a fraction related to gaming ads. Dark added that since the launch of Ontario’s regulated market, feedback about this specific category has decreased substantially. Rogers does not accept .net ads in other parts of Canada, primarily due to the relationships established with the onset of Ontario’s regulated market.
Stewart Johnston, senior vice president of sales and sports for TSN-owner Bell Media, which has a partnership with FanDuel, stated that they had received fewer than 35 complaints about gaming ads in the first year of the iGaming market. Sportsnet and TSN have implemented caps on the amount of gambling-related advertising they show to viewers. However, there are still feeds from U.S.-based networks that Canadian broadcasters cannot control and may have betting content. Additionally, sportsbook advertising in an arena or stadium during a game cannot be blocked out by broadcasters. Johnston noted that a balance must be struck and that there can be too much advertising.