Canada calling for Relax Gaming
By Alexia Smilovic Rønde
Ontario has had an incredible journey to reach this regulatory point, becoming one of the most promising markets in the whole of North America. The board is now set for early-adopting B2B companies to attain considerable market share, with a team sheet of big names now operating or pursuing licenses and set to play a major part in introducing Europe’s most prominent studios to the market.
This is no small advantage, as Ontario will comfortably rival the biggest U.S. states as it reaches maturity. Key to this progress will be the AGCO’s substantial and competitive regulatory model, which is more reminiscent of European regulation than it is of any framework we have seen in North America to date.
Not only does this bode well for European legacy suppliers and operators in Ontario, but it sets a good example for neighbouring provinces, which may be likely to follow suit once the jurisdiction’s potential and lucrativeness become evident.
Particularly positive is that, unlike in regulated U.S. markets, it is not only local land-based operators that can be granted licenses, meaning there is not an arbitrary cap on the number that can be issued.
The jurisdiction has also decided not to put a restriction on brands or skins for each operator, making a great deal of diversity available to players. What this means is that we effectively have a blank slate for the industry to be market-makers, as, with the monopoly of the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation over, the landscape is completely open.
Under the new regulation, I have no doubt that we are going to see a major play from pure Canadian companies as well as U.S. operators quickly expanding across the borders in a race with their European counterparts. Particularly attractive is the very reasonable $100,000 annual license fee and 20 per cent tax rate – compared to New York, there is quite a substantial difference.
This will all serve to make Ontario an ultra-competitive landscape, which we at Relax Gaming believe will attract a huge number of operators. Adding to this promise is the fact that the AGCO’s technical standards are centred around responsible gambling requirements. As a result, we are looking at an incredibly safe environment for players – which is one that could attract many risk-averse brands north of the border.
Relax in North America
Relax Gaming was live with the market’s key operators on Ontario’s April 4 opening day, and we are actively preparing upcoming go-live dates with operators awaiting imminent registration approval. We were also one of the first to secure B2B registration, which has allowed our Silver Bullet and Powered By Relax aggregation partners to benefit from these sheltering conditions, making for a great suite of casino content on top of our award-winning games portfolio.
Naturally, most would say the U.S. is the next logical step for Relax Gaming. This is especially the case given the difficulty that other Canadian provinces are not likely to be as fast to open a regulated market as Ontario has been. In the meantime, however, the province represents a unique opportunity for Relax Gaming to smoothly set foot in North America and steadily grow our extensive global distribution network there.
Given how our products have performed in Europe’s more mature markets, we expect the eventual transition into the U.S. to go relatively smoothly. With a great deal of cultural crossover between the U.S. and Europe, we will naturally optimize our already formidable offering to appeal to a U.S. audience by doing so in Ontario.
Driving differentiation – plenty of work to be done
Of course, the situation is not without its challenges. No newly regulated market promises to be entirely straightforward. Noteworthy is the fact that the land-based incumbents are fiercely lobbying against any further regulatory precedent, which is to be expected.
However, if Ontario succeeds in establishing a fully controlled diverse and dynamic gaming landscape, it will set an undeniable precedent that will be difficult for other provinces to ignore. We at Relax Gaming and our partners are committed to contributing to that initial success.
That being said, Canada’s other provinces are either tied with exclusive operator models or may not have the same freedom to explore the benefits of multiple licensing compared with a single-license model – it will take time, and the incentive to do so will very much depend on the success achieved in Ontario.
It is early days, but the initial signs are that this is the beginning of a truly seismic iGaming market. There are some wrinkles to be ironed out, but the sheer potential of this jurisdiction will make the effort well worth the while.
Alexia Smilovic Rønde is Chief Regulatory Officer at Relax Gaming and boasts 11 years’ experience in the online gaming industry, combining regulatory, compliance, product, operations, and business expertise across worldwide jurisdictions.