Responsible Gambling in Ontario

Privatized online gambling is expected to launch in Ontario in late 2021. That means gambling in Ontario is about to go well above and certainly beyond the provincial lottery’s own online casino site and the 25 live slots and casino locations in the province managed by the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation.

Now, the province takes the issue of responsible gambling seriously and privately run online casinos will have to as well. That means more responsible gambling initiatives will be required. The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario has already established iGaming Ontario, a subsidiary that will conduct and manage the province’s open and competitive online gambling market. iGaming Ontario will set terms in regards to how private operators should handle all kinds of issues, like anti-money laundering, player registration, customer service, game types and responsible gambling.

Promoting responsible gambling has been named a key priority for the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario and iGaming Ontario. Together, they want to ensure that vulnerable people, including minors and at-risk individuals, are not targeted by online casino advertising or marketing and that online casinos do not mislead the public through ads. They are going to ensure private online casinos in Ontario give players a complete understanding of the rules of the games they offer, a player’s chances of winning and the likely outcome. Plus, they will make sure problem gamblers can easily find the resources required to get help if they need it.

Responsible gambling in Ontario’s standards for online gaming

Ultimately, iGaming Ontario wants to create an open and competitive online gambling market that minimizes potential harm and promotes a responsible environment. That means the elimination of inappropriate advertising practices that target minors, are false and deceptive or promote the excessive play.

It also means preventing private online casinos from allowing players to play excessively, mandating those casinos make players aware of the risks involved with problem gambling and the options available to help with self-control. Finally, privately run online casinos will be forced to implement various responsible gaming controls. Here’s a look at some of the province’s proposed standards for internet gaming as they pertain to responsible gambling.

Policies and culture

Private operators, the OLG and iGaming Ontario will all need to implement and follow policies and procedures that identify, prevent and minimize the risks of harm from gaming to players. These policies and procedures will be reviewed and evaluated regularly and staff will be trained on their content and application.

Marketing and advertising

Advertising, marketing materials and communications will not be allowed to target or appeal to high-risk, underage or self-excluded players. Marketing, advertising and promotions will not be allowed to mislead players or misrepresent online gambling in any way, including making it look like a viable job, investment opportunity or a road to financial security. Well-known personalities or celebrities cannot be involved in advertising suggesting online gambling has contributed to their success in any way. Plus, the advertising and marketing of things that are considered gambling inducements, like bonuses and credits, are prohibited everywhere except on an operator’s website.

Supporting informed decision making

Private operators will need to implement a systematic approach toward informing players and encouraging them to play safer. That means information about how games work, including the risks involved and common misconceptions about those risks. Plus, operators must outline how responsible gambling tools work.

Identifying and assisting individuals experiencing harm

Private operators will need to put a mechanism in place to monitor player risk profiles and behaviours, so they can detect signs of problem gambling and systematically provide assistance. Plus, live customer support with responsible gambling policy training must be made available 24/7.

Employee training

All employees must be trained to identify and understand the importance of responsible gambling.

Self-exclusion and breaks in play

Operators must provide players the chance to initiate a short-term break from play and a voluntary self-exclusion program.

Game design and features

Games must be designed with clear instructions and not mislead players. Displayed winning amounts must all be achievable. Features must help to prevent extended, continuous and impulsive play. Multiple slot play must be restricted, and games must include at least a 2.5-second break between spins with no auto-spinning. Auditory or visual effects on false wins, or returns less than the amount wagered, are barred. Plus, all games must display the player’s total net position, winnings minus losses since the start of the session and track the passage of time.

Limit setting features

Online casinos must also provide players an easy and obvious way to set gaming limits, both financial and time-related. Plus, they must refuse to change these limits for any player without a 24-hour cooling period.

Understanding and identifying problem gambling

The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation’s responsible gambling program says gambling should be for recreation. Gambling is considered a problem when it starts to affect your daily life. If your gambling interferes with work, school or other activities, it’s a problem. If it leads to physical or emotional health issues, it’s a problem. If gambling causes growing financial concerns or starts to take a toll on your personal relationships, it’s a problem.

Problem gambling is often hidden, and the signs are not always easy to read. PlaySmart, the OLG’s responsible gambling program, has put together a checklist of problem gambling signs. Ask yourself, do you or a loved one:

  • Gamble to escape your other problems?
  • Gamble longer than you planned?
  • Miss things like work, school, or family events because of it?
  • Gamble with money you already reserved for important things like your rent or mortgage?
  • Borrow money to gamble with or pay off gambling debts?
  • Promise to stop but continue gambling anyway?
  • Experience mood or personality changes when you gamble?
  • Have self-destructive thoughts because of gambling?

Answer “yes” to one or more of these questions and you should consider taking advantage of the resources, help and support for problem gambling that’s available across the province.

PlaySmart has also put together a list of problem gambling signs in young adults:

  • Change in behaviour or personality
  • Unexplained absences
  • Dropping grades and incomplete assignments
  • Gambles daily or weekly
  • Show off valuable new purchases and can’t account for them
  • Boast about winning
  • Pay added attention to sports scores and conversations about gambling
  • Borrow or steal
  • Increasingly forget appointments or dates
  • Withdraw from family and friends

Once again, if you see one or more of these signs in a young adult, you should consider helping them take advantage of the resources, help and support for problem gambling that’s out there.

Ontario problem gambling resources 

OLG PlaySmart

PlaySmart is the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation’s responsible gambling initiative. More on PlaySmart can be found via the PlaySmart.ca website. PlaySmart provides facts, advice and tools to promote responsible gambling. It gives you the tools and information to help you manage your budget and customize your playing experience with responsible gambling in mind, providing the resources to help if your gambling stops being fun.

The tools include a look at how gambling really works, plus a quiz, simulator, and Slot Play Calculator that drive the point home that there’s no secret formula to improving your odds of winning and that skill isn’t as big a factor as luck. As an organization, PlaySmart works closely with the province and independent agencies to find ways to support problem gamblers and people on the edge. This stretches from employee training and player education to game design and advertising. Plus, it includes treatment and community involvement. PlaySmart is also involved in the administration of OLG’s Self-Exclusion program.

PlaySmart is OLG’s responsible gambling program, and it helps players make informed choices about games. It offers clear, straightforward and relevant facts regarding all games, advice and tools on how to set a game plan that keeps gambling an entertainment option, and promotes smart and healthy gambling habits. PlaySmart is there to listen, respond and offer assistance. It includes a virtual encyclopedia online filled with facts, tools and advice to help you make smart gaming choices and inform you on games’ odds and strategies.

PlaySmart Centres are also located onsite at casinos across Ontario.

Ontario problem gambling helpline

The province runs the Ontario Problem Gambling Helpline available via phone at 1.888.230.3505 or on the web at problemgamblinghelpline.ca.

Connex Ontario

Connex Ontario helps people in the province discover mental health, addiction and problem gambling services in the province. It is available via phone at 1-866-531-2600 and online at the Connex Ontario website.