Ontario Faith Leaders Urge Public to Join Campaign Opposing iGaming

Posted on: January 4, 2024, 01:05h. 

Last updated on: January 5, 2024, 01:11h.

Ontario bishops with the Anglican Church of Canada have come out in opposition to legal online casino gaming in the Canadian province.

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)

Legal iGaming, consisting of interactive slot machines and table games, went live in Ontario on April 4, 2022. The launch coincided with the legal introduction of retail and online sports betting.

Ecclesiastical bishops in Ontario, including Archbishop Linda Nicholls and National Indigenous Anglican Archbishop Chris Harper, released a joint statement opposing the province’s newest gaming vertical. The faith leaders are calling on the government to amend their iGaming regulations to prohibit all relevant ads.

Government policy has recognized that tobacco should not be advertised. This is true of other commodities. 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’ statement read, as reported by the Anglican Journal.

“We may have reservations about gambling itself, but are not condemning it, as it remains a personal choice,” the bishops continued. “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 one day go a step further in having the government flip on the expanded gaming and roll back the iGaming law. The bishops are calling on the public to write their provincial lawmakers asking “for the disestablishment of iGaming.”

The bishops cited research that concluded an estimated 1.6% of Canadians are at moderate to high risk of a gambling disorder. That equates to about 25,600 impacted persons.

iGaming Ontario, the regulatory body that oversees online casinos in conjunction with the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO), says it promotes responsible gaming and has a myriad of tools and resources for players, including self-exclusion (to launch in 2024), deposit and time limits, and support services. Each licensed iGaming operator is mandated to invest in responsible gaming programs and regularly advertise the importance of sensible play.

Responsible gambling means participating in gambling activities without being at risk of experiencing harm or causing harm to others,” iGaming Ontario says on its website.

iGaming Ontario additionally 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 protect consumers by including messaging about the available responsible gaming protections. The ads can also help players identify legal, regulated sites that have such responsible play safeguards.

Ontario lawmakers have already heeded certain calls to restrict gambling adverts. Last August, the AGCO agreed to ban all gambling advertisements that include celebrities and sports stars to “help safeguard children and youth who can be particularly susceptible to such advertising content.”

Ontarians continue to embrace legal iGaming, as bets and revenue continue to increase. During the quarter ending September 30, Ontario’s legal casino platforms took in more than CA$14.2 billion (US$10.63 billion) in bets and won approximately $404.3 million.