Ontario auditor still has concerns about online gambling

A new report reiterates 2021 recommendations for AGCO and iGO

Ontario’s Auditor General has issued a follow-up report on the implementation of recommendations from 2021 regarding Ontario gambling in its latest annual report. The report suggested that progress has been slow, highlighting the complexities inherent in this new gaming landscape.

The office, an independent agency that audits and investigates ON provincial government agencies, conducted a 2021 report prior to the launch of regulated gambling in the province, noting concerns about compliance and the structure of the Ontario gambling market. It made five recommendations to Ontario lawmakers for the gaming regulators, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO), and iGaming Ontario (iGO).

The report suggests that “none of the five actions recommended in 2021 have been fully implemented.” This includes issues regarding the fairness and integrity of internet gaming, as well as concerns about compliance with the Criminal Code and potential conflicts of interest within iGaming Ontario’s (iGO) governance structure.

iGO’s role in managing and conducting internet gaming, in collaboration with private operators, is a cornerstone of the Ontario gambling model. This collaboration, however, has led to revenue-sharing arrangements that have raised questions about the model’s overall governance and legal standing.

The Auditor General’s report specifically noted the legal challenge initiated by the Mohawk Council of Kahnawà:ke in November 2022, which questioned “the legality and constitutional authority of Ontario’s Internet gaming framework.”

The report also addressed the issue of compliance with the Criminal Code, a recommendation that has lost relevance since the market launched in April 2022. The delegation of decision-making power to private operators and the possible conflict of interest in AGCO’s regulatory role versus iGaming Ontario’s profit goals have been areas of concern for the office.

Despite these challenges, the financial impact of Ontario’s iGaming model has been notable. The report acknowledged the significant revenue generated since its launch, projecting substantial contributions to the province’s tax haul. However, it also highlighted concerns about the effectiveness and fairness of oversight in the iGaming industry.

One key recommendation was transferring iGOs governance and operating responsibilities to the Ministry of Finance. However, the Ministry plans to continue the current structure. The report states, “The Ministry asserts that conflict-of-interest policies and a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) address these concerns.”

The report observed a gap regarding game fairness and integrity, pointing out that “iGaming Ontario does not proactively monitor operators for compliance with gaming standards.” This has led to suggestions for iGO to take a more active role in ensuring the integrity of games.

The AGCO has issued numerous fines to operators in the past months related to responsible gambling but iGO has not been involved in those actions.

Overall, while the financial success of Ontario gambling is evident, the report called for more rigorous oversight and implementation of recommendations to address legal, governance, and fairness concerns in this evolving sector.

Canadian Gaming Busine reached out to AGCO and iGO for comment but have not received a response at time of writing.

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