Since 1970, provinces have been able to self-regulate their respective gambling infrastructures, which has provided as many complexities as it has opportunities, for brands seeking to capitalize on what is an extremely tumultuous, but very promising market.
In April 2022 the province of Ontario opened its doors to online gambling sites, reinvigorating discussions around iGaming and the wider industry and ushering a shift in cultural perception around gambling.
With a renewed hope of other provinces emulating Ontario’s regulatory reforms, many in the industry are seeking the latest regulatory guidance, innovative marketing strategies and industry insights. This is in the hope of both strengthening their influence in regulated provinces and positioning themselves strategically for future advancements in the market.
In the lead-up to the 2024 edition of the Canadian Gaming Summit, (taking place at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, June 18 – 20), we sat down with conference producers Aidan Brain (VP of Conference Production, SBC) and Eduardo Toledo (Conference Producer, SBC), to discuss the latest additions to the summit, innovative session formats and how the agenda will assist delegates in navigating Canada’s intricate regulatory landscape.
What do you believe delegates will gain from attending this year’s conference?
Aidan Brain: For many delegates, it’s just a great level set; to understand where we are in the Canadian gaming industry right now, what’s coming up, what has been a success, and what hasn’t. For some, it’s a place to debate and discuss, and for others, it’s a place to validate their current thinking. There’s plenty of learning for every level of experience in the game.
Eduardo Toledo: Our agenda for this year is carefully designed to cover the most relevant and contentious topics in the industry. I think the great thing about the event is that it is a valuable learning opportunity for both newcomers and experts alike. Everyone can gain some new knowledge they didn’t have before.
Reflecting on last year’s Canadian Gaming Summit, the inaugural event under the SBC brand, how would you assess its overall success? Are there specific elements or learnings from the previous edition that have played a role in shaping the direction and focus of the upcoming conference agenda?
AB: Last year was a big success! Many conference sessions were standing-room only, which we took as being pretty good feedback. Some learnings we did take away were that we still need to do more to make this event a pan-Canadian one. Yes, Ontario is important, but other provinces have highly successful models too, and so in 2024 we’re going to make sure that they get the platform they deserve.
Looking at this year’s conference agenda, there is a plethora of exciting and innovative panel topics! On a personal level, what are some of your favorite panels and why?
AB: It’s hard to choose but I always enjoy our opening ‘Leaders’ panels with the main players in the market. This is a vertical that’s changing regularly so it’s important to bring everyone up to speed and agree on a direction of travel before the rest of the conference.
ET: It’s definitely hard to choose, but one of the most intriguing sessions for me is the “RG & ESG integration in iGaming: A concrete shift towards sustainable practices.” I am quite curious to learn how these two topics can complement each other. The responsible gambling (RG) panels are also among my favorites, as they provide valuable insights and awareness on this vital topic. I believe it is essential that we all share a common vision and commitment to promote safer gaming.
Selecting the right speaker can make or break a panel. How do you go about selecting the right panelists? Are there any specific profiles that you are currently looking for?
AB: First of all, diversity. Diversity in the traditional sense but also diversity of thought, diversity of opinions and diversity of backgrounds. We don’t want a panel where everybody is in complete lockstep with each other! Not that we want shouting matches, but some debate is always healthy.
ET: Aidan’s answer was great, I couldn’t have said it any better. A key goal for us is to ensure that attendees gain some new knowledge, feel inspired to implement a positive change in their organization and continue the conversation on topics and ideas that were being discussed.
I’ve noticed that this year’s agenda includes the return of ’roundtable’ sessions. For those who may not have attended last year’s event, could you elaborate on how these roundtables differ from a regular session? Additionally, could you provide insights into the types of topics that will be discussed during these sessions?
AB: Roundtables might seem quite formal from the outside but they are pretty relaxed discussion groups, led by a host whose job is really to keep the conversation on track. This year, like last, we’ll be focusing on roundtables for each different province, as well as other groups such as First Nations, an extremely well-attended roundtable in 2023, and sports leagues.
With frequent technological trends emerging, how does your conference team determine which innovations deserve a specialized panel? Has the past emphasis on technologies like NFTs, Crypto, and AI influenced your decision-making process?
AB: It’s important to differentiate the buzzwords from the innovations that are actually making changes in the industry. For many, crypto didn’t have the effect it was supposed to, but that doesn’t mean it still can’t. We know AI is big this year, so we will try and focus on that in as many sessions as we can, but only where relevant. We don’t want to shoehorn technology in where technology doesn’t belong!
ET: It comes down to what technology has helped make a positive contribution to the industry. Artificial intelligence (AI), virtual reality (VR), and augmented reality (AR), just to name a few, are technologies that operators are using to elevate their guest experience and we will highlight them in the panel discussions. Another important topic that we always address in our events is cybersecurity. Today, this topic is more crucial than ever, as companies face increasing threats from cyber criminals who seek to take advantage of the data, money, and trust of players.
How does this year’s conference agenda aim to assist delegates in navigating the intricate regulatory landscape in various Canadian provinces?
AB: Again, by including representation from all the major provinces. There are very different regulatory models at play here, so it’s useful to compare them, but also to deep dive into each different one.
ET: It is a tough subject, for sure. Even I am still learning to navigate that space! We know how difficult it is to understand, especially for new operators or companies looking to do business in Canada. As Aidan mentioned, we want to ensure that the major provinces are represented so that the audience can hear about the challenges and successes from each of them.
The panel ‘Fantasy Sports in Ontario: Less Than Just a Fantasy?’ explores the future potential of DFS in Canada. Could you elaborate on why this is an important topic to examine and what makes it specifically relevant to Canada?
AB: Daily fantasy sports (DFS) is legal in Ontario, but like many states in the US, it’s still considered gambling as opposed to a game of skill. This is a long-running debate for many, and it has meant DFS has had a different level of penetration north of the border. Meanwhile, the situation in British Columbia (BC), for example, is completely different; so it’s an important topic to discuss, both from a regulatory and a legislative perspective.
Across the agenda, there are a handful of dedicated lottery panels. In an industry where sports betting and iGaming take center stage, how does this emphasis on lottery-related topics align with the role of lotteries in Canada? Moreover, what valuable insights can participants derive from engaging in these sessions?
AB: In most Canadian provinces, the provincial lotteries manage gaming, so it’s a very important distinction. Lottery is still the biggest revenue source for these groups, so we can’t forget about it, even as sports betting and iGaming are expanding rapidly and are of course at the heart of what SBC focuses on.
You can purchase your super early bird ticket, gaining you access to all three days of the event for the discount price of CA$695! (US$519), here.
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