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Hockey star Connor McDavid is now a face of responsible gambling after promoting the game | Radio-Canada News


Athletes are no longer supposed to appear in gambling-related ads in Ontario, although sports fans may have noticed Connor McDavid in a new spot from online sports betting platform BetMGM.

Indeed, the 27-year-old hockey superstar is campaigning in favor of responsible gaming – an exception authorized by the strengthened regulations on the marketing and advertising of games of chance in Ontario, which came into force on February 28.

The 30-second commercial shows McDavid sitting in a room with a friend and asking him if he knows about BetMGM’s “responsible gambling tools” that will prevent his friend from getting “swept up” in betting.

The new ad has been broadcast for several weeks on television and digital platforms. But McDavid is already a familiar face to BetMGM customers, having appeared in a previous ad campaign involving Wayne Gretzky, which promoted the same company’s betting services.

A screenshot shows Connor McDavid as he appears in a spot promoting BetMGM's responsible gaming tools.
McDavid is shown in a screenshot of a BetMGM ad promoting responsible gaming. The new ad has been broadcast for several weeks on television and digital platforms. (mcdavid97/Instagram)

Judd Moldaver, the agent representing McDavid, said the hockey star’s relationship with BetMGM remains the same, despite the change in ads.

“Responsible gaming was part of the relationship between Connor and BetMGM from the beginning,” Moldaver told CBC News via email.

“It’s something that’s close to his heart, and this ad was a priority for him – he wants to be visible by talking about gambling responsibly.”

Still, some observers question how credible it is that McDavid would switch roles for BetMGM, seeing his on-screen presence as a reminder of the company behind the commercial, rather than as a voice of gaming moderation.

Andrew Kim, an assistant professor in the psychology department at the University of Calgary, said he believes this essentially helps build brand awareness.

“You associate Connor McDavid with their site,” said Kim, also a sports fan, who first spotted the Edmonton Oilers captain’s new ad during the broadcast of a recent hockey game.

Hockey stars including Connor McDavid and Wayne Gretzky have refused to talk to the Fifth Estate about their brands, despite multi-million dollar deals purporting to do just that.
McDavid is shown in an earlier ad campaign for BetMGM with hockey great Wayne Gretzky, right, promoting the company’s betting services before regulations in Ontario were changed. Under stricter regulations, athletes can only advocate for responsible gambling. (PariMGM)

The fight for market share

Marketing expert Tony Chapman said he sees this scenario playing out, given that Ontario has not stopped promoters from moving from promoting the game to highlighting potential restrictions on its services.

He said the appeal of having a star like McDavid is clear: “You hire a celebrity like him to fight for market share,” said Chapman, the show’s host. Discussions that matter podcast, said by email.

Kim said McDavid’s star power makes him widely recognizable to sports fans — and that celebrity recognition helps consumers more easily remember the brand he’s associated with.

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BetMGM must also see the value in McDavid’s star power, as the company touts its “partnership with one of the greatest players in hockey” and highlights the fact that the reigning NHL MVP explains how people can limit their Paris.

Matt Prevost, the company’s chief revenue officer, said McDavid has been “part of our efforts to promote responsible gaming” since the beginning of his relationship with BetMGM.

“This is something he has expressed as a personal priority,” Prévost told CBC News in an emailed statement.

Paul Burns, president and CEO of the Canadian Gaming Association (CGA), said active athletes are generally prohibited from advertising gaming services “in most jurisdictions around the world” . Ontario’s updated regulations now do the same thing.

But he pointed out that some very well-known athletes in the United States have become involved in promoting gambling and responsible gambling.

Brothers Eli and Peyton Manning, both retired NFL stars, have appeared in commercials for Caesars Sportsbook, as well as Caesars spots on responsible gambling.

Eli Manning and his brother Peyton Manning are seen at the 2024 Pro Bowl, in Orlando, Florida, in February 2024.
Peyton Manning, left, and his brother Eli Manning are shown in Orlando, Fla., in February during the 2024 Pro Bowl. The retired NFL stars helped promote Caesars Sportsbook gaming products, but they are also appeared in responsible gaming advertisements for the same company. (Nathan Ray Seebeck/USA Today Sports)

Tony Chapman, for his part, questions the association of the words “responsible gambling and gambling”.

He said “gambling sites that promote responsible gambling, especially with a celebrity, should not be allowed to put their logo… (in order to show) that their intention is true.”

“Otherwise, they ride a Trojan horse into the consumer psyche and abandon their brand,” Chapman said.

Billions bet by Ontarians

Canada legalized single-event sports betting in 2021, but the following year Ontario was the first province to launch a regulated sports betting program.

Two years after the start of this new reality, Ontario bettors are betting billions of dollars every quarter, through online sports betting, but also through online poker, casino games and other online gaming products. .

In fact, sports betting represents only a fraction of the online gaming market in Ontario. But the sports-related segment is heavily promoted and under scrutiny since its wide legalization.

Brady Tkachuk of the Ottawa Senators fights against Ryan Nugent-Hopkins of the Edmonton Oilers during a game March 24 at the Canadian Tire Center in Ottawa.
The partially obscured logo of Betway — a sports betting service that is part of Ontario’s regulated market — is displayed on signs at the Canadian Tire Center in Ottawa, during an NHL game between the Senators and Oilers d Edmonton on March 24. (Marc DesRosiers/USA Today Sports)

The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) is well aware of the important role that promotion has played in market growth, which it acknowledges on its website.

In an email, the agency said “responsible gaming is a central aspect” of the regulated market and that it sees athletes as having a useful role in spreading that message.

“The use of athletes, whose influence and appeal extends to a wide audience, remains permitted in advertising and marketing for the exclusive purpose of promoting responsible gaming practices,” the AGCO said, emphasizing that McDavid’s new ad is licensed accordingly.

The regulator also said it was “pleased” to see gambling operators “making the necessary adjustments to align their advertising practices with the updated standards”.

CGA’s Burns said industry members are clear about what is expected when it comes to advertising. Before the legal market launched in Ontario, he said, there was no industry-funded promotion of responsible gaming practices.

Kim, of the University of Calgary, said, however, that he sees an inherent tension in an industry that provides gambling services in trying to get some of those people to opt out of their participation.

“You’re basically trying to get your most valuable customers, the ones who spend the most, to spend less,” he said.

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