Strengthening Regulations to Curb Problem Gambling


Ontario legalized gambling in 2022, becoming the first Canadian province to open its doors to private operators. Two years later, the province is dealing with more calls to fortify existing gambling regulations to protect public health. Earlier this year, Ontario regulators passed new rules prohibiting gambling ads featuring celebrities and athletes.

Hockey legends Wayne Gretzky and NHL stars Austin Mathews and Connor McDavid are some of the common figures Ontarians have become used to seeing in betting advertisements. With the new rules now in effect, athletes and celebrities will no longer be featured in gambling ads. All this is done to help curb the issue of problem gambling.

However, some parties want the federal government to ban gambling ads altogether. The parties demand the government to use the same restrictions placed on cigarette advertising, which have been shown to be effective in reducing smoking. Here’s more on the betting landscape in Canada, its impact on public health, regulations, and problem gambling:

Gambling Landscape in Canada

Gambling in Canada is regulated at the provincial level. This means each state has the mandate to establish laws governing legal betting within its boundaries. After the federal government amended the Criminal Code, it essentially gave provinces the green light to create legal frameworks for accepting private bookmakers and iGaming operators.

Ontario was the first to take the initiative and began licensing operators in April 2022. Since then, the province has licensed over 70 private operators, giving Ontarians full access to legal gambling products. Quebec might soon have a similar framework. However, players in QB and other provinces rely on the locally-operated betting websites to explore real money wagers.

Players throughout Canada are also free to explore offshore websites licensed in Malta, Kahnawake, the UK, the US, and other regions. However, these operators are not allowed to actively market their products in the provinces because they’re not licensed by the local governments. Only Ontario permits this action from third-party operators.

Problem Gambling Concerns

Sports and casino betting are popular pastimes but offer the potential to win real money. The fun pastime can also result in losses, which is why responsible gambling is important. According to studies, the excitement around gambling may drive some players into spending money for essential expenses like food, rent, and education on gambling.

Impulsive players may also find themselves chasing losses or borrowing money to gamble. Uncontrolled betting activity is what constitutes problem gambling and may result in public health issues. According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, CAMH, problem gambling is an addictive disorder that affects some young people and adults.

Affected players face the risks that come with losing money on a bet. CAMH reported that 1.2% of adults in Ontario and nearly 50% of high-school students who engage in gambling are at risk of developing a problem. These concerns call for measures to promote responsible gambling and protect vulnerable players. Gambling is a fun activity that should be seen as entertainment.

Responsible Gambling Frameworks

To address problem gambling concerns, governments, mental health institutions, and gambling operators offer various responsible gambling frameworks. For instance, local governments can restrict advertising and impose other regulations to protect minors and vulnerable players. Mental health organizations and charity groups feature toll-free helplines and other resources.

Provincial websites and bookmakers offering sports betting in Quebec, Ontario, and other regions also feature KYC verification to prevent minors from joining. Gambling operators also allow cool-off periods, bankroll limits, account deletion, self-exclusion, and other frameworks. The goal is to give players control of their gambling accounts and activities.

Responsible gambling involves efforts from all parties involved. Players have a responsibility to join legitimate sportsbooks and casinos, set aside gambling funds, and step away when gambling starts to become a problem. Operators should make these decisions effortless by offering opt-outs, self-exclusion, limits, analytics, and other measures. Governments must also conduct research to learn more about problem gambling and effective solutions.

The Call for Stiffer Measures

Ontario regulators passed new rules to ban athletes and celebrities from gambling advertisements. However, CAMH thinks the federal government and Ontario government should do more to protect the mental health of vulnerable young people. CAMH released a document titled Gambling Policy Framework addressing various concerns and strategies.

According to the Toronto-based organization, the government should implement regulations to restrict gambling promotions as part of a larger public health strategy. The call is to limit gambling availability, enhance education and prevention, and introduce mandatory safeguards. CAMH also recommends shifting harm prevention from focusing on players to providers.

A public health approach is required to emphasize the role and responsibility of gambling operators in reducing gambling harm. According to another organization, the government should take the approach used to discourage smoking. This model involves banning all forms of advertisements that promote the activity to minors.

Key Takeaways About Gambling and Public Health

Gambling is a pleasurable activity for millions of people and offers unmatched excitement, especially when players win. However, the thrills of winning can also result in impulsive betting if not controlled. All parties involved must act swiftly to prevent minors from gambling and offer relief for vulnerable players. Regulations should also be tailored toward establishing a flourishing and sustainable industry for players, operators, and local economies.