A bill that proposes to ban advertising by unauthorized Internet gambling Web sites in the Canadian province of Ontario received its second reading in the Ontario Legislature Thursday morning. It was approved by a voice vote and will go to a standing committee on justice policy for review.
"Advertising today as we all know is a way to entice people to participate, so I thought that attacking from this perspective would be the way to go."
- Jeff Leal, MPP
"Advertising today as we all know is a way to entice people to participate, so I thought that attacking from this perspective would be the way to go," said Liberal MPP Jeff Leal, author of the bill.
"I've been concerned about youth gambling here in Ontario," Leal said. "The fact is that Internet gaming certainly seems to target 18- to 25-year-olds, and we've certainly become aware up here of the need to address addiction, potentially a very serious problem.
"Secondly, what it is doing is draining dollars away from the established gaming industry here in Ontario, which is controlled by the government of Ontario. I'm talking about horse racing and activities through the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation. That money of course flows back to the government of Ontario, which then we use to invest in education, health care and other programs."
Leal's proposal to ban unauthorized Internet gambling sites would involve amending Ontario's Consumer Protection Act of 2002. The bill states:
No person shall print, publish, distribute, broadcast or telecast an advertisement or representation that includes an Internet gaming business website address unless the person believes in good faith that the Internet gaming business has been licensed or otherwise granted permission to operate in Ontario or Canada by the appropriate authority and is operated in accordance with the applicable laws of Ontario and Canada.
When asked by IGN whether the bill would apply to ads that do not display a "Web site address" or to ads found on Web pages, Leal responded, "I think as the bill goes to committee, these are the kinds of issues that need further discussion and identification, and that's why it was so important to get the second reading today and get it off to committee. I think there is a real interest to thoroughly examine this issue, but this discussion may also generate a lot of interest in pursuing things in a variety of areas."
Speculating how long the issue will remain in committee is difficult because the committee sets its own timeframe, but Leal says he will try to persuade the committee chair to get the bill on the agenda to start a discussion, which he considers a critical first step. It is still the early days of the bill's progress, he noted.
Leal also stated that he has received encouragement from government cabinet members, and that representatives from a number of groups are likely to provide testimony to the standing committee, including individuals from the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation-- the government-run business that operates casinos and lotteries in Ontario-and problem gambling activists. Leal also verified that representatives from Internet gambling businesses are welcome to provide information to the committee.
While competition from Internet gambling companies may be taking a toll on Ontario's gambling industry, it is certainly not the only culprit. The industry has also relied to some degree on American patrons, but new American casinos and border slowdowns since Sept. 11, 2001 have stifled gambling operations in border areas.
"Many of these border areas are very concerned about layoffs in the gaming sector," MPP Tim Hudak explained to CTV Canada earlier this week. "People are just not coming across the border like they used to."
Click here to view Ontario Legislative Assembly Bill 60.