We are facing a somewhat bleak reality: gambling addiction is no joke. And when the public is blasted with gambling ads during sports games with half-minute ad spots and in-game sponsorship, it raises a fair amount of questions. Can sports fans who are predisposed to gambling addiction watch a game without being triggered? Are ads priming a new generation for gambling distress? For the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), all online gambling ads are a mental health concern. And it does raise some valid and thought-provoking points.
Just whose responsibility is responsible gambling? While it is true that online casino and sportsbook operators need to shoulder responsibility, eliminating ads will mean factoring in less revenue. NoDepositFan’s Chief Editor, Simon Li shared his divided opinion on this:
‘It’s a tricky situation, this. Because on one hand, our partners understand that bombarding players with ads tends to defeat the purpose of promoting responsible gambling, but on the other hand, it’s a business, and profit needs to be made.’
The Canadian Mental Health Association goes in
The Canadian Mental Health Association has something to say about the huge amount of advertising that is awash in sports in Canada. You see, while these ads are little more than an annoyance or a reminder they might like to place a bet for plenty of people, for others they are akin to a slap in the face or dangling a carrot in front of a donkey.
Much like most people can drink responsibly, the reality remains, some are alcoholics and because of this many tend to experience alcohol-related harm. This is also the case with the way different people gamble. For most, it’s a fun little booster to make a game more suspenseful. And for such individuals it’s simply a kind of pastime they participate in to have fun. But, for others it may be seen as a means to earn money, where such a hobby is a vicious never-ending loop of chasing a win. With such an unhealthy outlook on this activity, it’s virtually impossible not to get caught up in the cycle of gambling every time, consequently creating harm across households due to risky and hidden gambling behaviors.
The CMHA knows all this and is keen to remove iGaming advertising altogether. However, they’re also realists and acknowledge the fact that this activity is going nowhere anytime soon – indeed, quite the contrary. Thus, lobbying for changes to advertising regulations surrounding iGaming to make it safer among the community seems to be a better tactic to adopt.
Rules surrounding advertising in Canada
The rules and regulations surrounding iGaming advertising in Canada are presently not as stringent as in some other countries around the world – which is possibly where the main issue lies. Earlier this year, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) proposed that there be a ban on any advertising that included celebrities and athletes. Since these types of public figures are often seen as heroes in the eyes of children, it goes against the stance of ensuring that children are not exposed unnecessarily to gambling activities, nor encouraged to gamble.
While the CMHA welcomes this proposed change, it believes that it does not go far enough. This is why it has suggested a number of different additions to the current rules surrounding online gambling ads in Canada. They are asking for changes to include the removal of any cartoon figures from advertising, plus any other symbols, role models, or influencers, including from social media – anything that may be appealing or easily accessible to minors.
They also would like to see rules that do not permit gambling to be seen in a purely recreational light, but also reference the dangers alongside it too, to illustrate a more realistic picture to the general public. Their advice is that gambling must not be portrayed solely in association with success, wealth, knowledge, or courage, or, indeed, as a sport itself.
Protecting the community
The CMHA is all about protecting the community. And while they certainly are concerned about minors and students’ gambling habits, they also are aware and cautious of other people in the community who are at risk. These include people with mental health conditions, those facing other types of addictions, seniors, and people on a low income: all of whom are considered the most vulnerable.
Unfortunately, it is often, such individuals who are the ones who suffer the most from addictions. While the middle class and above can typically get by as functioning addicts, those who are more susceptible tend to become far worse off if they fall into these types of potentially addictive behavioral patterns.
Mental health is everyone’s responsibility
Ultimately it’s up to everyone to help support the general population’s mental health – more so entities specialising in such initiatives. But by helping those who are susceptible in our community, and thus achieving better mental health outcomes, we all win. While eradicating iGaming advertising altogether doesn’t seem like a particularly achievable (nor realistic) goal, or fair for operators, it should certainly be included within some agreed moralistic unwritten rules that help to protect people from harm.
When different government and community entities work together and homogenously with gambling operators, it leads to a more harmonious working relationship, where all parties can get along and exist within their lanes without being a thorn in the side of the other.
By educating gambling companies about the mental health struggles of problem gamblers and their loved ones, these businesses will be better equipped to deploy methods that will help stop problem gambling before it becomes overwhelming for people. And in this way, everybody comes out on top – even if they don’t have a win on the game that day.