Faith Leaders in Ontario Encourage the Public to Reject iGaming

Published on: January 4, 2024, 01:05h.

Last updated on: January 4, 2024, 01:05h.

Ontario bishops with the Anglican Church of Canada have expressed opposition to the legalization of online casino gaming in Ontario, as part of the province’s newly liberalized iGaming industry.

Ontario iGaming online sports betting
National Indigenous Anglican Archbishop Chris Harper and other bishops in Ontario want the Canadian province to curb its recently liberalized iGaming industry. Regulated online casino sites went live in April 2022. (Image: Anglican Journal)

iGaming was legalized in Ontario on April 4, 2022, including interactive slot machines, table games, as well as online and retail sports betting.

Bishops in Ontario, including Archbishop Linda Nicholls and National Indigenous Anglican Archbishop Chris Harper, have jointly expressed opposition to the province’s latest gaming expansion. They are urging the government to make changes to iGaming regulations to prohibit relevant advertising.

The bishops’ statement mentioned, “We urge you to recognize that the well-being of people can be deeply affected by addiction to gambling which is now brought into the living rooms and on the laptops, smartphones, and tablets through this business model.”

The bishops stated, “We may have reservations about gambling itself but are not condemning it as it remains a personal choice,” adding, “Rather we are speaking to the policy that would permit the advertising and driving traffic and revenue toward an addictive behavior in youth and vulnerable populations.”

Complete Ban Recommended

While Nicholls and Harper are immediately seeking the halt of iGaming adverts, the bishops hope to have the existing iGaming laws rolled back in the future. The bishops are encouraging the public to express their opposition to iGaming by writing to provincial lawmakers.

The bishops referenced research indicating approximately 1.6% of Canadians are at moderate to high risk of a gambling disorder, which equates to about 25,600 impacted persons.

iGaming Ontario, the regulatory body overseeing online casinos, has reiterated its commitment to promoting responsible gaming and offering various tools and resources for players, such as self-exclusion, deposit and time limits, and support services.

iGaming Ontario states, “Responsible gambling means participating in gambling activities without being at risk of experiencing harm or causing harm to others.”

iGaming Ontario also requires its licensees to share anonymized data on players “for the purpose of advancing problem gambling and responsible gambling research.”

Advertising Pushback

iGaming Ontario says online gaming advertisements can, in fact, protect consumers by including messaging about responsible gaming protections and help identify legal, regulated sites with sensible play safeguards.

The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) previously agreed to ban all gambling advertisements that include celebrities and sports stars, in an effort to “help safeguard children and youth.”

Legal iGaming in Ontario continues to see increased bets and revenue. During the quarter ending September 30, Ontario’s legal casino platforms took more than CA$14.2 billion (US$10.63 billion) in bets and won approximately $404.3 million.

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