CGB Rewind: The story so far for Ontario’s igaming market

A look into how Ontario’s market launch has gone as the year has progressed

One of the biggest gambling markets to go live not only in Canada but in North America this past year was Ontario’s sports betting and igaming market, bringing the grey market into the regulated landscape.

At the end of January, operators were given a launch date of April 4 for their sports betting and igaming offerings with Paul Burns, President and CEO of the Canadian Gaming Association, calling the announcement “another major milestone and achievement for Ontario’s gaming industry”.

However, the Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation (MSIFN) community challenged the decision, claiming it violated a constitutional right to consultation with Indigenous leaders.

Before its launch had even taken place, Ontario was given a lot of hype and big expectations due to its population size, framework, and potential to produce a competitive marketplace.

Back in March, theScore’s President and Chief Operating Officer, Benjie Levy, highlighted the province to become one of North America’s most lucrative igaming markets

The province is under the regulation of iGaming Ontario, a subsidiary of the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) which had given the responsibility to create a safe, regulated and competitive online gaming market. It is also controlled by the Ontario Lottery and Gambling Corporation (OLG).

One of the key drivers by the regulators is promoting responsible gaming. As such, the Responsible Gaming Council’s (RGC) RG Check Accreditation program is integrated into the entry requirements for the igaming market.

The province’s regulators also put in place a transition period to allow grey market operators to switch to the regulated market, giving them until the end of October to do so. There are also limitations on advertising.

With an open license model, operators and suppliers that went live on launch day include theScore, PointsBet, 888, FanDuel, Caesars, Kindred, Light & Wonder, Kambi, Rush Street Interactive, LeoVegas, BetMGM, and bet365. Others soon followed including DraftKings, Genius Sports, Paysafe, NorthStar Gaming, and Bally’s.

A survey by OntarioBets discovered that money line bets were the most popular form of wagers amongst Ontarians, and the province prefers to wager on the NBA over the NHL.

In June, Doug Hood, Project Director of Sports Betting at the AGCO, reflected on the launch of online sports betting and igaming in Ontario, calling it a “success”.

Soon, however, the AGCO began issuing fines, as Unibet, PointsBet, BetMGM, and DraftKings were penalized.

“The first financial figures and statements about the Ontario market came as operators published their Q2 2022 reports, with many expecting even bigger numbers from the market in the future, while others tempered expectations.

At the end of August, the iGO released its first quarterly report for the province, declaring just $124m in revenue over the first three months of the market’s operations, with a handle of $4.07bn.

The transition period for grey market operations to move to the regulated Ontario market closed at the end of October.

Around the same time, the iGO announced that the market’s handle had grown by close to $2bn in its second quarter of operations to $6.04bn, with revenue standing at $267m.

Close to the end of the year, the Mohawk Council of Kahnawa:ke (MCK) also filed a legal challenge to Ontario’s online gambling market with the Ontario Superior Court.

The AGCO also issued an order to all operators in the province to stop offering and accepting wagers on UFC events due to betting integrity concerns.

As Ontario moves into 2023, the market is still filled with optimism, but expectations may need to be revisited.

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