Dot-Net Advertising Ban Fails in Ontario

6 December 2006

The Ontario Legislative Assembly will modify a bill that would have banned the advertisement of so called dot-net (informational) Internet gambling services in Ontario; the dot-net amendment has been stricken from the measure.

The Assembly last week held a two-day hearing on Bill 152, which aims to amend the Consumer Protection Act of 2002 to criminalize the advertisement of dot-net Internet gambling businesses relating to sponsorship agreements.

Introduced in October by MP Gerry PhillipsBill 152 passed upon its second reading on Nov. 16 and was referred to the Social Policy Committee for hearings that took place Nov. 27-28.

During the hearings, lobbyists in Toronto convinced the government of the bill's ambiguity and lack of cohesiveness with the Canadian Criminal Code, which only outlaws dot-com advertising.

The distinction between “dot-com” and “dot-net” advertising is that the former promotes sites that offer real-money gambling services and the latter promotes informational and educational sites.

Michael Lipton, a partner at Toronto-based law firm Elkind & Lipton, provided legal advice to lobbying firm Hill & Knowlton and helped the group in its efforts to show the government that the bill, as initially drafted, was inappropriate. The firm, under Lipton's guidance, asked the government to redraft the bill so that it is in compliance with the Criminal Code.

"What we've been successful in doing is to bring to the attention of the government the ambiguity and the overbroad way in which the initial bill was drafted," Lipton said. "I think that through submissions that were made by us the government does recognize that. And in keeping with its original intent of only trying to prohibit dot-com advertising, it has redone the bill; it has scaled it back so that it really only prohibits dot-com advertising."

Bill 152 has been called for a third reading, which will likely take place in the next few weeks. Following the reading, the bill will be submitted for Royal Assent, a process through which the bill becomes law. Lipton expects it to become a law in the not-too-distant future.

It is a positive development for the I-gaming industry, although Lipton downplayed the "victory."

"I wouldn't necessarily say this is a great victory," Lipton said. "I would just merely say that the government wanted to put its oar in the water in respect to this matter. It did so, and I think that it did so in an attempt to be responsible, and it really didn't change the legal landscape in Ontario."

Click here to view the revised online gambling advertising amendments for Bill 152.

Emily Swoboda is the senior staff writer at IGamingNews. She lives in St. Louis, Mo.