Birgitte Sand: Helping to build Ontario’s regulations and the province’s ‘pragmatic’ start

AGCO’s ‘pragmatic’ and ‘open’ approach to the first six months of the Ontario igaming market has contributed to ‘an extremely good start’, according to Birgitte Sand, a Danish industry veteran who helped build the regulatory framework in the province. 

Speaking on a live version of Martin Lycka’s Safe Bet Show at SBC Summit Barcelona, Sand, who has had a long and successful career in the industry, noted that it is ‘sad’ to see regulators forced into issuing fines and that continuous fines are ‘a failure on both sides’. 

Sands is CEO of Birgitte Sand & Associates, a Board Member at Mindway.AI, Global Advisory Board Member at the All-In Diversity Project, and former long-time Director General at the Danish Gambling Authority, but was asked to help form the Ontario regulations. 

She recalled: “I’m proud to say that I already knew of the regulator in Ontario for many years and I’ve had friends, and lawyers working with gambling in Canada as well. 

“So in that sense, I knew a little bit about what was going on, but they approached me and I realized that they were really at the steps of implementing a new regime for online and I was just asked if I would like to take it on as an advisor, be there in the backstage and share what I’ve learned from the Danish market. I was extremely honored to do that.”

Whilst Sands was onboarded as an advisor, she was impressed with the existing setup in Ontario but noted that each market has its own individual quirks that makes it stand out from the rest. 

For her, in Ontario, this meant that iGaming operators in Ontario must enter an operating agreement with the organization before acquiring a license.  

“They did already have a very well-functioning regulatory authority,” Sands told Lycka. 

“But what they had to establish, quite interestingly enough for Canada, they had to establish a conduct and manage authority as well, iGO, and so due to Canada having a different build on regulation of gambling, they had a federal approach saying that we need our provinces themselves to conduct and manage gambling.

“We can’t leave it to the industry themselves to conduct and manage only and then get a license doing so. That was different but I realized we have the same sense of humour and we share a lot of our values between Denmark and Ontario, which I really very much appreciated, by the way.”

Sands offered thoughts on the way that AGCO has handled the regulatory role in the first six months of the market launching, noting that it is essential that it has let the market be open at the beginning. 

Notably, AGCO allowed grey market operators until the end of October until mandating a transition to regulation before imposing any sanctions. 

Sands noted that this pragmatic approach is a good thing for everyone, explaining:” Don’t go out there and don’t be too restrictive from day one. Let the industry and the market develop and be a little bit open and pragmatic in the beginning. 

“And then, of course, when everybody knows exactly what they got themselves into, you can strike down and start issuing sanctions and so forth. But to me, sanctioning anyone is always kind of a failure on both sides.

“It’s very sad when you as a regulator have to sanction someone because you have to look at your own part of it and say, did I do enough to inform and guide altogether since this happened? So really, I think Ontario is on to an extremely good start.”

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