Ontario online gaming market launches amid celebration

Updated April 7

Ontario, we finally made it.

After years of advocacy and months of regulatory and operational preparation in all corners, the Ontario online gaming and betting market officially launched at 12:01 a.m. on Monday, April 4.

Thirteen private online gaming and betting sites were fully registered and licensed to operate in Ontario immediately once the market opened, and that remained the case as of the morning of April 7.

But today is not just about those brands and their work; the launch of the Ontario online gaming and betting market is the culmination of a sustained and carefully considered effort that has crossed industries and political party boundaries.

From sustained advocacy to previous proposed bills around regulated gaming being kiboshed at various stages of the process to finally getting legislation over the line last summer, the journey to Ontario being the first province to open a liberalized regulated market has been long and at times arduous.

Now, for the first time, private-sector operators of online sportsbooks and casinos can legally take bets from within the province, offering Ontario’s punters a wide range of platforms and betting options in addition to the PROLINE offering of the government-owned Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation, which has been the sole legal online operator since Bill C-218’s enacting in August.

Celebrations in the province

Monday morning was marked by celebrations from the industry.

Numerous licensed operators, including theScore Bet, PointsBet, and FanDuel, tweeted early during the day to officially confirm their launch, and the industry gathered in person in Toronto.

“This is a monumental day that establishes Ontario as an international leader in online gaming,” said iGaming Ontario (iGO) executive director Martha Otton in a news release. “After years of anticipation culminating in historic legislation followed by months of hard work by all stakeholders, we have reached today’s launch of a legal internet gaming market out from under its previous grey market standing.”

Speaking at a curtain-raising event at the Toronto Stock Exchange, Canadian Gaming Association (CGA) President and CEO Paul Burns took a moment to reflect on what it all means.

“The CGA believes the introduction of a regulated gaming marketplace allows the province of Ontario to reset its priorities for the gaming industry — online, land-based, and charitable gaming — to encourage competition while incentivizing capital investment, job creation, and economic growth. We support the government’s objective for Ontario’s iGaming model: to establish a competitive iGaming market that fosters exciting gaming experiences while protecting consumers and keeping Ontarians safe.”

Long cited as a key motivation for establishing a regulated Ontario online gaming and betting market is to eradicate the grey market of operation and bring revenues in-house. The Ontario government said last July that Ontarians were gambling nearly $1 billion a year over the internet and that around 70 per cent of that was via grey market websites.

“As of today. there will be no more grey market in Ontario; only black,” Burns said, to applause. “With regulations in place, Ontario finally has the tools to deal with unlicensed operators.”

Ontario is expected to generate approximately $800 million in gross gaming revenue from online gaming this year. Deloitte Canada estimates the legalization of single-event sports betting in Canada could grow to close to $28 billion within five years, with Ontario expected to rank second behind only New York in terms of sports betting revenue.

Burns added that the province can use regulated iGaming to encourage companies to invest in Ontario and its workforce, as well as encourage growth of the numerous valued technology companies already located in the province.

A competitive market

As of the morning of April 7, the iGO website lists the following sports betting sites as licensed to operate immediately, all of which entered the market on Day 1:

  • 888 (888casino.ca, 888poker.ca, 888sport.ca)
  • Bet365 (on.Bet365.ca)
  • BetMGM (Casino.on.BetMGM.ca, poker.on.BetMGM.ca, sports.on.BetMGM.ca)
  • BetRivers (BetRivers.ca
  • Caesars (Sportsbook.Caesars.com)
  • Coolbet (Coolbet.ca)
  • FanDuel (FanDuel.com/Canada)
  • LeoVegas (LeoVegas.com)
  • PointsBet Canada (PointsBet.ca)
  • Rivalry (Rivalry.com)
  • Royal Panda (RoyalPanda.com)
  • theScore Bet (theScore.bet)
  • Unibet (on.Unibet.ca)

More have also been approved to operate subsequently, such as Annexio’s LottoGo brand and Fitzdares, but are not quite ready to go from the kick-off. That field is expected to broaden more in the coming days and weeks with more than 30 thought to have applied for iGaming registration and 27 registered as of April 3. Some notable names, including U.S. giant DraftKings and European mainstay bwin, are yet to get off the ground.

Meanwhile, dozens of suppliers have been approved to provide their solutions and services to licensed operators in the province.

Those include the likes of Toronto-based Bragg Gaming, which is supplying 888; Evolution, which is working with numerous licensed operators such as 888, BetMGM, LeoVegas, Rush Street Interactive’s BetRivers, and theScore Bet; and Gaming Realms, which is working with the likes of Rush Street Interactive, BetMGM, and Kindred. Myriad others are also active, including Vancouverian company FansUnite, Kambi, Scientific Games’ Light & Wonder rebrand, Everi, FSB, Playtech’s Quickspin, and many more.

Receiving a license from the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) is not the final step for operators; they must execute an operating agreement with iGO before they can legally go live, as well as satisfy other regulatory conditions such as achieving the Responsible Gambling Council’s RG Check accreditation.

“To complete these steps, these organizations will have met rigorous standards of game integrity, fairness, player protections and social responsibility,” the iGO website says. “Their sites will have controls preventing underage access and measures to enable more responsible gambling. They have entered legal agreements ensuring compliance with applicable laws, including anti-money laundering.” The iGO indicates the process of registering with the AGCO registration and executing an iGO operating agreement could take at least 90 days.

iGO said prior to the market opening that online sportsbooks launching in Ontario must first settle any action they’ve taken from players in the province, including outstanding futures bets. Any operators not licensed by the AGCO as of April 4 have been required to cease operating in the province.

Photo: Canadian Gaming Association
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