By Byron Bridger
With Ontario home to around 40 per cent of Canada’s overall population, the province has all the potential to not only become the country’s leading market but also North America’s largest and most lucrative iGaming hotspot.
Ontario will thrive as an open digital market due to the presence of an established publicly delivered land-based and digital offering provided through the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG). Additionally, there have been a number of operators floating around the space for around a decade, unlike in the United States, where players were completely blocked from accessing any form of online gambling.
However, with increased competition expected as a flurry of operators and suppliers secure licenses to do business within the new market, deploying the relevant content will be crucial to gain an advantage as these early days of legalisation play out.
Questions have already been raised as to what player preferences will look like within the province. Naturally, they will be inundated with a variety of game types, as several newly licensed suppliers are lining up to fill casino lobbies with a strong selection of industry-leading titles.
The stakes are high, and it is vital that operators understand exactly what kind of content will resonate with Ontarians. Knowing this insight from day one can make the real difference between being hugely successful or distinctively average.
With this in mind, Asian-themed games will need to form an essential component of an online offering within Ontario, should early player behaviour follow similar trends to other North American markets.
Proven content to drive engagement
Not only does data show that Asian-themed games are in demand across Canada, both online and in land-based casinos, there is also a large Asian population in Ontario, particularly within metropolitan areas. It would be remiss of operators not to take this into account when launching iGaming content in the province.
Statistics show that more than half of all Light & Wonder’s online players in the states of Michigan and New Jersey played at least one Asian-themed game over a six-month period, which illustrates a huge number for such a specific game type.
Of course, the significant presence of this genre in the land-based environment has influenced iGaming content and subsequent activity. Those familiar with the North American market will know that most players of a legal gambling age will have only ever been exposed to land-based gaming, which is why Asian-themed games — a casino staple — are already so popular.
The adaptation of Asian-themed land-based content for the digital market has worked tremendously well in the U.S. and Canada so far so, naturally, we are confident that Ontario will also be a success.
As both a content aggregator and slot developer, Light & Wonder can utilize a wealth of market data and insight to finetune our Ontario roadmap so that it is in line with player preferences. Early data from the first weeks of operations in the province have already shown that the strategy is working. Four of the top 10 games in the province were Asian-themed games, with the most played Light & Wonder slot being Ji Bao Xi Endless Treasure.
The brand awareness of these proven Asian-themed games allows operators to enter a market with confidence in their product, while helping players feel more comfortable within this new space. Not only are players already familiar with them, but they also play an important role in the in offering players a true omnichannel experience.
Ultimately, the legalisation of iGaming in Ontario is a hugely welcome move that has been a long time in the making. Above all else, it will provide a safer gaming experience for online players in the province. It will be intriguing to see how the market fares during these opening months. One thing is for sure, though: Asian-themed games will play a significant part in this jurisdiction’s ongoing success.
Byron Bridger is the Commercial Director – Canada of Light & Wonder