Ontario law limits online gambling advertising aimed at residents

Ontario passed new consumer protection legislation last week that alters the province's laws relating to online gambling advertising. The law now prohibits online gambling advertising that is directly targeted at residents in the province.

The new law is part of Bill 152, the Ministry of Government Services Consumer Protection and Service Modernization Act, which covers a wide range of consumer protection issues.

"Over the last few years, Ontario has become a leader in consumer protection, and we are building on this by enacting new laws and strengthening existing ones to protect the people of this province from the current realities of today's marketplace," said Government Services Minister Gerry Phillips.

Initially, lawmakers wanted to tighten up the laws against online gambling advertising to stop sites from advertising their free, educational sites in the province. This form of indirect advertising is not illegal according to the current laws, and a section of Bill 152 would change that.

It was previously reported that Ontario had dropped the online gambling advertising portion of the bill when it was reviewed by the Social Policy Committee. Instead, the committee changed that portion of the bill.

Initially it was a blanket prohibition on advertising of online gambling sites with advertising was defined as:

  • the promotion by print, publication, broadcast, telecommunication or distribution by any means, of information intended to promote the use of an internet gaming business.
  • self-promotion and a contract under which one person obtains the services of another to develop or distribute the advertisement.
  • a link in a Web site intended to promote the use of an internet gaming business.

While maintaining a blanket ban on the advertising, the committee changed the definition of advertising. It has been reduced to advertising that originates in Ontario or is primarily intended for Ontario residents.

The bill went into its third reading last week with the changes made to the online gambling advertising. During the proceedings, Brampton West-Mississauga MPP Vic Dhillon had this to say about the online gambling portion:

"Illegal and unregulated gaming Web sites may prey on vulnerable consumers, including minors, and often encourage problem gambling. The proposed legislation would also ensure that the government is taking responsible measure to protect businesses operation legitimately in Ontario from illegal online gaming."

An argument has been made that while the Ontario government appears to be trying to protect consumers from online gambling sites such as Internet casinos and poker sites, they are also seeking to curb the amount of money they're losing from legal gambling to Internet gambling sites.

The bill was passed after its third reading.

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