Ontario’s new open iGaming market finally has a launch date.
The province’s online gaming market is set to go live on April 4, 2022. iGaming Ontario (iGO), a subsidiary of the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO), will conduct and manage iGaming provided through private operators acting on behalf of the province.
Beginning April 4, private gaming operators that have registered with the AGCO and have executed an operating agreement with iGO can begin offering their games to players in Ontario. A theoretically unlimited number of private companies will operate gaming sites in the market on behalf of the province in accordance with these agreements.
Ontario’s will be the first licensed and regulated iGaming market in Canada and will provide players with a broader selection of legal bookmakers. In contrast, most other provinces have appointed their lottery corporations to oversee new forms of betting. Alberta will allow private sportsbooks, but on a much more limited model than Ontario.
The Canadian Gaming Association (CGA) applauded the January 28 announcement.
“This is another major milestone and achievement for Ontario’s gaming industry after sports betting,” said Paul Burns, President and CEO of the CGA. “The move to establish a regulated iGaming market in this province will ensure that the people of Ontario have access to safe and legal gambling options online while encouraging investment and job creation in Ontario. We finally have the opportunity to safeguard the economic benefits that will start to flow to licensed gaming operators and the provincial government.”
Operators wanting to participate in Ontario’s iGaming market as an agent of the province must first be registered by Ontario’s gaming regulator, the AGCO, and then also execute an operating agreement with iGO.
Several of the biggest names in sports betting have already voiced interest and made moves to bring their bookmaking operations to Ontario. Major U.S. players such as BetMGM, DraftKings, FanDuel are expected to compete in Ontario against domestic rivals such as Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation and theScore.
Unlicensed operators will also no longer be able to advertise in the province.
“Operators can start making concrete plans now, and everyone is excited to see what happens,” the CGA’s Amanda Brewer told The Parleh. “There’s no upside to not getting a licence.”
Martha Otton, iGO Executive Director, assured consumers that rigorous standards will be upheld.
“Prevention of underage access, ensuring compliance with applicable laws including anti-money laundering rules and regulations, and measures to enable more responsible gambling are just a few of the assurances consumers can expect in the new market as of April 4,” she said. “Today, most internet gaming by Ontarians takes place on websites not conducted and managed by the province. Our new internet gaming market will give consumers enhanced entertainment choice, support the growth of a new, legal market and generate revenue that can help fund programs and services that benefit all of us.”
The launch will be the culmination of a long-term effort to open up a new iGaming framework, an intention first announced back in 2019. The government, the CGA, and leading advocates have longe stressed that the market will offer more protection for consumers, provide new opportunities for land-based operators, and pull in some of the betting revenues that are currently going to grey-market sportsbooks and gambling websites. The CGA estimates Canadian sports bettors are wagering approximately $10 billion annually through illegal bookmaking operations and more than $4 billion through grey-market offshore sites. By comparison, it’s estimated that just $500 million is wagered through legal provincial sports lottery products.
Ontario has a population of roughly 15 million, which would make it the fifth-largest North American jurisdiction and the second biggest market in the continent’s regulated sports betting and iGaming sector to open to date. It is predicted to generate gross revenues of nearly $1 billion in its first year of operation. Once it launches, Ontario’s iGaming market is expected to be one of the most competitive in North America.