Ontario Government Launches iGaming Ontario to Regulate Online Gaming

The Ontario government has officially launched iGaming Ontario, a new subsidiary of the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO).

A government release states that the subsidiary’s mandate will be to facilitate the creation of a safe, regulated, and competitive online gaming market within the province, including sports betting. The AGCO says it will also help to establish Ontario as an international leader in online gaming while ensuring robust measures are in place to protect consumers.

The Registrar’s Standards for Internet Gaming, expected to come into force when Ontario’s regulated gaming market launches in late 2021, have been published. Early rules include the prohibition of auto-play for online slot games and the enforcement of a minimum spin speed of 2.5 seconds.

iGaming Ontario is expected to be up and running by December, the province said.

“Following Parliament’s historic vote to lift the prohibition on single-event sport wagering last month, the establishment of iGaming Ontario is another pivotal milestone in our work to ensure people have access to a safe and regulated online gaming market by the end of the year,” said Attorney General Doug Downey in the release.

“We are determined to work with industry, responsible gaming advocates, and regulatory partners to ensure Ontario is a world leader in building a safe online gaming environment that meets consumer expectations.”

The government had announced last year that a dedicated subsidiary of the AGCO would be established to conduct and manage the new iGaming offerings as Ontario looks to expand its regulated market.

The AGCO also recently released a roadmap letting Ontarians knowing what they can expect during the rollout of the province’s adapted iGaming market.

The AGCO’s regulatory role will remain the same and will be kept separate from the subsidiary’s role. The AGCO will continue to be responsible for regulatory oversight for all gaming activities in Ontario, including iGaming operators and suppliers, as well as over the new subsidiary.
Meanwhile, the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) will continue to conduct and manage its own online gaming offerings through OLG.ca.

The government, along with Ontario’s iGaming Commercial Project Lead, Birgitte Sand, will continue to meet with the iGaming industry, First Nations communities and organizations, and social responsibility groups to finalize the setup and rules for the new marketplace.

Sand has been working closely with the AGCO, the Ministry of Finance, and the Ministry of the Attorney General to provide critical expertise and advice on creating an igaming model that works for Ontario consumers.

Ontarians spend close to $1bn a year on online gambling with an estimated 70 per cent of that happening on unregulated, grey market websites, with limited, if any, consumer protection and responsible gaming measures.

“Ontario’s new legal iGaming market will create new opportunities for Ontario businesses and a better, safer gaming experience for players,” said Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy. “A competitive, regulated online gaming market will provide a safer alternative to the unregulated, grey market websites that currently exist – and which may lack proper consumer protections or responsible gaming measures. A new legal market would also generate revenue for the province to invest in supporting jobs and businesses, supporting people and their families, and improving and strengthening critical public services for a post-COVID world.”

The creation of the subsidiary also gained approval from the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA).

Maria Figliuzzi, a clinical team lead of a CMHA addiction program, emphasized that implementing such a regulatory system doesn’t encourage gambling, “but allows people to gamble in a safe and controlled manner”.

“From a harm-reduction perspective, this is very useful to implement,” she added, per BradfordToday. “Awareness is a key factor in helping communities develop supports and services that individuals can access. Implementing safety measures along the way can be very helpful for individuals who gamble and may have a positive outcome on the potential of gambling becoming problematic.”

More than 125 organizations, including iGaming operators, suppliers, land-based gaming operators, social responsibility groups, and First Nations organizations, have provided feedback on the iGaming framework through the AGCO’s new online engagement portal.

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