Ontario’s new internet gambling market is open for business

Ottawa Sun
 
Ontario’s new internet gambling market is open for business
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Ontario’s new internet gambling market is open for business.

A competitive framework for online sports betting in Ontario debuted early Monday, with several bookmakers announcing they had officially gone live in Canada’s most populous province.

Coolbet, FanDuel, PointsBet, and theScore Bet all tweeted about their launches in the early hours of April 4.

Ontario’s new iGaming market allows private-sector operators of online sportsbooks and casinos to legally take bets from within the province, instead of just the government-owned Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp.

The regulatory framework is the first of its kind in Canada and will likely be watched closely by other provincial and territorial governments.

“The framework in Ontario allows for necessary competition, continued investment, job creation, and importantly helps fund a stronger Ontario through tax revenue,” said Scott Vanderwel, CEO of PointsBet Canada, in a statement Monday morning. “We look forward to doing our part at PointsBet Canada in proving the model works while inspiring other provinces to consider a legal regulated framework.”

Before launching in the new iGaming market, companies must receive an approval from the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) and sign an operating agreement with iGaming Ontario (iGO), a government agency and AGCO subsidiary.

According to iGaming Ontario’s website, 13 different operators had been registered with the AGCO and executed an operating agreement with iGO as of early Monday morning.

This means that, barring any other regulatory conditions they need to meet or business-related preparations they need to take, those operators are ready to launch in the iGaming market. The 13 new operators that are already or could soon start legally taking bets in Ontario (all of which have online sportsbooks) are:

More operators are expected to join the market in the days, weeks, and months to come. At least 30 have applied for their iGaming registration.

Regulators could remain busy for some time, as the Ontario government has framed the iGaming market as a way to nudge the online gambling that’s done by provincial residents with offshore and out-of-province websites onto ones overseen and taxed closer to home. Ontarians are estimated to be placing hundreds of millions of dollars in wagers every year with these sites in the so-called “grey” market.

“One of the key objectives behind Ontario’s new igaming market is to bring sites Ontarians are already gambling on under regulation so that they can be held to high standards of responsible operations, player protections and game integrity,” an AGCO spokesperson told Covers on Friday.

Not all smooth sailing

Bettors must be 19 or older to sign up and start playing on sites in Ontario’s new iGaming market. Yet there have been a few bumps for bettors in the lead-up to launch day.

Ontario’s plan offers an opportunity for grey-market operators to participate in the regulated framework. However, those operators are required to first settle any bets they’ve taken from within Ontario before they can legally launch in the province.

Although it is up to bookmakers to decide how they handle the situation, the requirement has been unpopular among players sitting on potentially valuable futures bets (and perhaps not so much for those holding tickets that look like losers).

Another rule of the iGaming market is that it requires all players to be in Ontario to bet. This has proven problematic for operators offering daily fantasy sports, and major DFS companies DraftKings and FanDuel have said they would stop offering their contests in the province.

“Any games involving liquidity pools outside of Ontario are prohibited at this time,” iGaming Ontario says.

Even so, the prospect of entering a market the size of Ontario’s has been enough to intrigue plenty of new operators.

What’s more, the legalization of single-game sports betting in Canada by federal lawmakers last summer has allowed for its inclusion in Ontario’s new market.

“This is a monumental day that establishes Ontario as an international leader in online gaming,” said Martha Otton, iGaming Ontario’s executive director, in a press release on Monday. “After years of anticipation culminating in historic legislation followed by months of hard work by all stakeholders, we have reached today’s launch of a legal internet gaming market out from under its previous grey market standing.”

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