What will happen to unregulated “grey market” Ontario online sports betting and casino operators that go legit in the province, but continue to operate in the grey market in the rest of Canada?
PlayOntario put that question to the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario, the gaming regulator in the province. The AGCO media team responded Friday as follows:
“As the regulator for gaming in the province of Ontario, the AGCO’s regulatory framework establishes that all operators and gaming suppliers must stop any unregulated market activities in the province once they are issued their registration.
“The AGCO would take into account any regulatory or criminal sanctions imposed on a registered operator in another jurisdiction, be it in Canada or abroad, when reviewing the operator’s ongoing suitability for a registration under the Gaming Control Act, 1992.”
Those who don’t move over will become ‘black market’
That means when Ontario’s market opens to outside operators on April 4, those unregulated companies that do not transition to regulated “white market” operators will be officially listed as “black market” outfits unable to operate in Ontario.
Authorized to operate in the province will be those companies that successfully transition from the grey to the white market. Yet, the government does not have authority beyond its borders. It can’t stop those operators from taking bets in the rest of the country.
“Ontario is only asking operators to respect the laws of Canada. They aren’t saying they can or cannot operate in the rest of Canada. They only enforce regulations within the province of Ontario,” said an industry source. “Given the grey market is not illegal, just not legal, each company will make their own decisions on the rest of Canada.”
Ontario’s long history with grey market operators
Ontario has had a long history of grey-market operators. Two such companies — 888 sportsbook and Unibet sportsbook — have already announced a successful transition to becoming regulated operators.
Other grey market operators reportedly eying the Ontario market include:
- BetRegal Sportsbook: In 2021, BetRegal signed a deal with the CFL. That’s a clear sign the brand intends to go from a “grey” market operator to the regulated side.
- Sports Interaction Sportsbook: It calls itself Canada’s Sportsbook and Casino. It has been in business taking “grey” market bets in Ontario since 1997. SI could join the regulated market, but this is a complicated one because of its First Nations license.
- Bwin Sportsbook: Another grey market company, this one from Europe. It operates in Canada thanks to a license from the Kahnawake Gaming Commission based on First Nations land in Quebec.
- PokerStars Sports: A grey market operator with a PokerStars Sports online betting service. Ontarians can already place sports wagers, albeit illegally, through this service.
- Bet99 Sportsbook: A grey market company that made a major marketing play when it signed Toronto Maple Leafs captain Auston Matthews as a spokesperson for its free-to-play platform.