Ontario Passes Anti-Online Gambling Advertising Law

The Province of Ontario has passed new consumer protection legislation that contains provisions prohibiting the advertising of Internet gambling sites.  The provisions underwent important changes at committee (first reading, second reading after committee), however, so that the final bill looks somewhat different from the one that was introduced in the fall.  When first introduced, the bill contained a blanket prohibition on advertising an "an Internet site that operates an internet gaming business contrary to the Criminal Code."  The bill defined advertising as:

(a) the promotion by print, publication, broadcast, telecommunication or distribution by any means, of information intended to promote the use of an internet gaming business,

(b) self-promotion and a contract under which one person obtains the services of another to develop or distribute the advertisement,

(c) a link in a website intended to promote the use of an internet gaming business.

After committee, the bill contained some important changes. 
While the blanket prohibition remains unchanged, the definition of advertising has been narrowed to instances where the advertising originates in Ontario or is primarily intended for Ontario residents.  The effect of this change will be to exclude the vast majority of Internet gambling advertising, which neither originates in Ontario nor is primarily targeted at residents of the province. Moreover, the prohibition against linking has also been narrowed by excluding links "generated as the result of a search carried out by means of an internet search engine."  In other words, Google and other search engines won't be liable for links to gambling sites generated through search queries.

So what gets covered by this law?  Most Internet gambling sites are unaffected, unless they specifically target Ontario with their advertising.  Instead, there are two obvious effects. Offline, it seems likely that Internet gambling newspaper and radio promotion, common in some newspapers and on sports radio stations, will disappear.  Online, Internet search companies and websites will likely refuse advertisements that target Ontario.  Such targeting may occur either by way of the promotion itself or by using geo-identifying technologies.  This law may also capture Ontario bloggers and websites that focus on Internet gambling.  Those sites won't be able to feature Internet gambling advertising and may even face liability for posting links to various gambling sites.


  1. An end to those awful ProLine commercial
    I’m sure it won’t be. That really could have been the silver lining in all this.

  2. I guess that like beer and cigarettes, gambling is immoral… unless the state is able to take half the profits.

    This wouldn\’t be nearly has hypocritical if the ban included ALL gambling, including that of the OLG.

  3. Indeed, Swan — I just tried out OLGC’s subscription 6/49 service online. That would *EXACTLY* fall under the umbrella which the Province has legislated against!

  4. David Scrimshaw says:

    It would be fine with me if this law meant City-TV would have to stop showing those Texas-Holdem infomercials for online gambling.

  5. Darryl Moore says:

    What about free speech
    As you’ve laid it out, it certainly looks like this law could capture Internet bloggers who simply talk about gambling.

    Unless the law is rewritten such that it only applies to links created on websites for the clear purpose of providing business to gambling companies, it will be impossible for a blogger to provide a reference link to a gambling site to support any argument he might be making in his post. This I think, strikes at the hart of free speech on the Internet. What is next? prohibiting links to DeCSS?

    I have no problem with the concept of making such advertising illegal, (though I think the real motivation is sour grapes on the governments part because they don’t like the competition) but it needs to be very narrowly defined so that bloggers who write about gambling are not caught as well.

  6. Darryl Moore says:

    (doh) Apparently after reading this post a second time I notice that it does say “link in a website intended to promote the use of an internet gaming”, so I guess my concerns are unfounded.

    Of course this law still does little for the general availability of internet gambling to Ontarians. To really affect that we’d need a law which prevents credit card companies from honouring transactions with them. Like they have in the states now. Not that I think that would be a good thing mind you.

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  10. Online Gambling says:

    Prohibition of links
    If it prohibits links, then how do you suppose normal people can link sites that are probably of interest to them, particularly those with gambling as its main topic.