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Ontario Gambling Ads: For the love of god, make them stop – The Fulcrum

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Ontario Gambling Ads: For the love of god, make them stop – The Fulcrum

Image: Andy Hincenbergs/CBC.

Reading Time: 3 minutes

HOW MUCH ARE YOU UP?

If you haven’t been under a rock lately, you’ve likely come across some form of gambling promotion. Whether it be social media ads, television commercials, billboards, or your friend texting you eight different referral codes for betting apps, online gambling is inescapable for the youth psyche. This takeover is by no means a natural one, rather, it is a deliberately engineered campaign by online gambling companies to administer the dopamine-addicted generation a new source of their favourite substance. 

After a big lobbying push in 2018, the United States Supreme Court overturned a law banning online sports betting. The Canadian federal government then legalized single-game sports betting in 2021. The following year, Ontario became the only province to allow private gambling companies to operate in its market. Since then, watching sports and gambling ads has become a homogenous experience. 

In the US alone, online gambling companies spent almost $2 billion on advertising in 2023. According to a CBC report, gambling messages, on average, fill up to 21 per cent of each major sports broadcast. Over 90 per cent of this exposure is marketed directly during games, with visible messages and logos on or beside the playing surface. 

This is due to online betting companies having successfully pursued partnerships with professional teams, venues, athletes, and every major sports league. Television broadcasters like ESPN and its parent company, Walt Disney., also own shares in online betting platforms, giving them financial incentives to air as much gambling content as possible. 

In February, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) banned gambling ads featuring celebrities, athletes, and influencers to reduce their influence on the youth. However, the AGCO did not account for how young people actually digest content. Gambling companies use online creators as their main advertisement vessel, allowing people to enjoy the three-minute ad reads they pay for on every podcast. 

But forget marketing for a second — a key characteristic of every high-stakes poker or dice game is the presence of spectators. Their attention to the game magnifies the exhilaration of a win and the shame of a loss. 

In this way, gambling is content in itself and can be marketed without actors and scripts. Hence, online casinos are investing in creating content from people engaged in gambling on their sites. Stake.com is a perfect example of this practice, building an entirely separate live-streaming platform where people can watch celebrities and streamers gamble. 

By infiltrating the traditional and contemporary means of marketing, online gambling has birthed a culture symbiotic with the internet and sports. Entire Instagram pages are dedicated to picking parlays, and people are building businesses by selling picks on Onlyfans, Discord, and Telegram. 

There is no shortage of criticism about the online gambling industry. After generating $102 billion USD in 2021, people have grown somewhat concerned about its addictive effects. The promotions featured by most apps are built to keep users captivated, offering them in-app credits to stake for monetary profits, of course, with further conditions requiring them to gamble their winnings. 

Who are we to tell people how to spend their money, though? Under the backdrop of late-stage capitalism, online gambling just seems like the most recent vice heavily marketed towards the youth, similar to Zyns and vapes. The only real difference is the gambling industry is much better at remaining visible. 

The conversation around banning individual apps or the industry as a whole just forces the sector underground, where victims of addiction are more prone to exploitation. Individual responsibility is the only enforcement structure that assures people do not dig themselves into a financial grave. 

If the world is a dystopia, people should be allowed to distract themselves without restrictions. Money is a distraction that is as useful as it can be numbing. So the next time you see a gambling ad, pray for the guy who just bet his rent money on a 7-legger (he might bless you back in the future if he hits). 

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