Ontario’s online casino and sports betting market will officially open on April 4 2022 to a long list of outside gaming companies. The provincial government made the announcement this afternoon through its iGaming Ontario division.
“Consumers can be assured that companies who successfully enter the new Ontario market will have met rigorous standards of game and operator integrity, fairness, player protections and social responsibility, allowing all players to play with confidence,” says Martha Otton, iGaming Ontario executive director. “Prevention of underage access, ensuring compliance with applicable laws including anti-money laundering rules and regulations, and measures to enable more responsible gambling are just a few of the assurances consumers can expect in the new market as of April 4.”
The official launch date has been more than seven months in the making and follows the passage of Bill C-218 in June 2021. The bill amended Canada’s Criminal Code to allow for single-game sports wagering. Prior, parlay wagering was the only legal way to bet on sports in Canada.
The Ontario government moved fast to capitalize. In July 2021, the province created iGaming Ontario as a branch of the gaming regulator, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario. The AGCO tasked iGaming Ontario to license and regulate perspective gaming operators in the province.
February or March of 2022 was the original date the market was to open. But, recent reports suggested that might be delayed due to the provincial election, which must be held before June 2.
One of North America’s biggest launches
The stakes are huge for Ontario.
It will be one of the biggest online gambling launches in North America due to the province’s willingness to open the market to a wide number of operators.
Also, the fact Ontario is home to nearly 15 million people makes it a particularly attractive market. Ontario ranks fifth in population counting all the states and provinces together — behind California, Texas, Florida and New York.
Further, the Ontario government wants to open and regulate online gaming in order to recoup some of the money lost by Ontarians wagering on illegal “grey market” websites. Ontarians spend around $500 million gambling on grey market websites, according to provincial estimates. The government hopes to legalize and tax operators to grow revenue.
“This is another major milestone and achievement for Ontario’s gaming industry after sports betting,” said Paul Burns, president and CEO of the Canadian Gaming Association in a release. “The move to establish a regulated iGaming market in this province will ensure that the people of Ontario have access to safe and legal gambling options online while encouraging investment and job creation in Ontario. We finally have the opportunity to safeguard the economic benefits that will start to flow to licensed gaming operators and the provincial government.”
Statement from PointsBet Canada CEO
Shortly after the announcement, Scott Vanderwel, CEO of PointsBet Canada released a statement about the opening of Ontario’s sports wagering market:
“With an official launch date now announced, PointsBet Canada is thrilled to continue realizing our mission of delivering an authentically Canadian gaming experience to Ontario’s great sports fans. Between our innovative, in-house technology platform that allows us to customize and tailor our app per the needs of the local consumer and introduce revolutionary in-game betting opportunities, as well as our unique partnerships deeply rooted in our nation’s sports, we will offer an unrivalled form of entertainment to Canadian sports bettors.
“I want to commend Premier Ford, Attorney General Downey, Minister Bethlenfalvy, and iGaming Ontario for their work in creating an openly competitive and regulated environment. We will continue to work with our government partners to protect consumers and create a level-playing field in a responsible and licensed gaming market as we introduce PointsBet Canada’s unmatched speed and ease of use, as well as the deepest slate of pre-game and in-game betting options in the world.”
Currently, the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. has a legal monopoly on the province’s online gaming market through its olg.ca site. The site is home to an online casino and the Proline Plus sportsbook. The casino site is home to some 150 slots, baccarat, blackjack, and other RNG-powered card games from leading casino software providers. And, it features live dealer online casino games through Evolution.
Opening the market to such gaming giants as DraftKings, Caesars, BetMGM, FanDuel, PointsBet, theScore and more is expected to be a boon for betting customers. The expansion of choice will keep more players gambling legally in Ontario, keep their money in the province and their gaming dollars safe.
However, not everyone believes opening the market will be beneficial to the province.
Great Canadian warns opening the market will hurt revenue
A report commissioned by Great Canadian Canadian Corporation and released this month concludes that opening the market will result in $2.8 billion in lost tax revenue in five years to the province. Job losses could be as high as 2,500, the study concludes. Plus, $550 million in lost revenue annually for the province may occur due to online operators cannibalizing revenue from land-based casinos.
It should be noted that Great Canadian has a vested interest in keeping further competition out of the market. It operates 26 land-based casinos nationally, 14 of those in Ontario.
Although, Jeffrey Haas, senior vice-president of DraftKings, disputed the report’s main conclusion that casino patrons would shift to online betting. Players will move to legal operators from offshore sites that are not taxed and regulated, Haas said.
“People who are playing in online casinos and online sportsbooks and online poker rooms will continue to do so,” Haas told CBC. “Except they’re going to go from playing offshore to onshore. And anybody who continues to walk into real casinos in order to play games there will continue to do so.”