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Sports betting tweets, ads prompt fines from Ontario regulator

·3-min read
The AGCO oversees legal sports betting in Ontario, where dozens of private operators like PointsBet and BetMGM have registered since the market opened on April 4. (Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports)
The AGCO oversees legal sports betting in Ontario, where dozens of private operators like PointsBet and BetMGM have registered since the market opened on April 4. (Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports)

The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) has fined PointsBet and BetMGM, two operators in the province's newly-launched competitive market for sports betting, for allegedly breaching its standards.

The penalties appear to be the first issued since Ontario began allowing privately-owned sportsbooks to take bets last month.

The AGCO oversees legal sports betting in Ontario, where dozens of private operators like PointsBet and BetMGM have registered since the market opened on April 4. According to a press release issued on Tuesday, the AGCO has served the Canadian arms of the two foreign-owned companies with notice of the alleged infractions, which are related to advertising and inducements.

PointsBet Canada was fined $30,000 for alleged failure to comply with Standard 2.05, which prohibits "advertising and marketing materials that communicate gambling inducements, bonuses and credits . . . except on an operator's gaming site and through direct advertising and marketing, after receiving active player consent." The AGCO says the alleged infraction is tied to posters on GO Trains and in GO stations that included "an inducement to play for free."

BetMGM Canada was fined $48,000 for alleged failure to comply with Standards 2.05, as well as 2.04, which states "marketing, including advertising and promotions, shall be truthful, shall not mislead players or misrepresent products." The agency points to an April 10 tweet from the company stating "the more money you put in per bet, the higher your chance is of winning." The AGCO also notes three alleged infractions related to Standard 2.05. One references tweets on April 8 offering "a 'Jimi Hendrix Free Spin Friday,' including a chance to win 100 free spins, in return for following the registrant's Twitter account."

Yahoo Sports U.S. has a partnership with BetMGM in U.S. jurisdictions where single sports betting is legal. Both companies can appeal their penalties to Ontario's Licence Appeal Tribunal, which is independent of the AGCO.

"The AGCO holds all registered operators to high standards of responsible gambling, player protection and game integrity, and monitors their activities to ensure they are meeting their obligations under Ontario's Gaming Control Act and the Standards," AGCO CEO and registrar Tom Mungham stated in the release.

PointsBet Canada CEO Scott Vanderwel apologized on Tuesday for "our error made in the interpretation" of the AGCO's rules.

"I am appreciative of the considerable efforts made by our local team and close partners to remediate the issue once we were notified," Vanderwel added. "As I have stated in the past, we pride ourselves on our reputation as a compliant operator and believe in working collaboratively with regulators inside the legal framework. We are advocates for the legalization and legitimization of this industry and believe in the importance of creating a level playing field in which all operators contribute to safe, responsible play."

BetMGM did not respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.

Jeff Lagerquist is a senior reporter at Yahoo Finance Canada. Follow him on Twitter @jefflagerquist.

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