Ontario is Moving Ahead with Plans for Liberalized iGaming Market
By Tom Nightingale
Updated November 6, 2020
The government of Ontario intends to move ahead with a liberalized iGaming market. The province’s latest budget, published on November 5, outlined plans to launch a regulated online marketplace which would lift the restrictions levied on private operators.
The budget details that it aims to establish an online market for iGaming that is "both competitive and protects consumers." The province will introduce legislation to give the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) the authority to conduct and manage iGaming in addition to its current regulatory duties. If the proposed legislation passes, a dedicated subsidiary of the AGCO would be formed to manage iGaming.
The province notes it and the AGCO will continue consulting with key stakeholders on the design of the iGaming market to reflect consumer preferences, and will liaise with the federal government to encourage the legalization of single-event sports wagering. Ontario says legal single-event sports betting would help support the growth of a competitive online gambling market and benefit other parts of the gaming sector.
The Canadian Gaming Association (CGA) says it applauds Ontario’s decision to move forward with the legislation, noting that iGaming has been gaining acceptance in Canada for more than a decade and Ontarians are playing online on a daily basis.
“As we grapple with the economic recovery from COVID-19, it will be helpful for Ontario to generate revenue from the licensing and taxation of offshore online operators who qualify to operate in Ontario,” said Paul Burns, President & CEO of the CGA. “It will also allow land-based casino operators to access online gaming, enabling them to diversify their entertainment options and interact with customers outside of property walls.”
The CGA adds that government oversight in iGaming is essential, as there is an important regulatory role in providing both a level playing field in terms of standards and a safe and secure environment for consumers.
A Competitive Market
Premier Doug Ford had pledged in the past to bring Ontario in line with U.S. states like New Jersey by establishing “a competitive market” for legal gambling. Ford’s Progressive Conservative party has questioned whether the current offerings of Ontario Lottery & Gaming Corp (OLG) would still be sufficient as the North American sports betting landscape shifts. Until now, OLG has operated the only legal online gambling avenues in Ontario.
In 2019, the Ontario treasury estimated that most of the approximate $500 million that is thought to have been spent by residents on online gambling came through unlicensed websites.
Provincial finance officials have not offered a detailed timeframe for their plans other than to say it will work to develop a new model “over the coming months.”
Toronto-headquartered company theScore, which has expanded its theScore Bet portfolio into multiple U.S. states in recent months, went public with its support for the provincial iGaming move after the budget was published. "Canada is theScore’s home turf and we are eager to bring our sportsbook to our highly engaged fans across Ontario, a huge market with a population larger than all but four U.S. states," said CEO John Levy.