888 First Grey Market Operator To Announce AGCO Approval Ahead Of Ontario Launch

Written By Katarina Vojvodic on March 3, 2022 - Last Updated on September 20, 2022
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888 Holdings is the first grey market operator to announce it has received a green light to launch in the Ontario market scheduled for April 4.

The company’s brands, 888sport, 888casino and 888poker, were live on Thursday in Canada, though licenced in Gibraltar, according to the sites.

888 joins PointsBet, theScore and Rivalry as operators that were the first to register with the Alcohol Gaming and Commission of Ontario in preparation for launch.

Grey market sites have been operating throughout Canada for years. The regulated market will include some former grey operators. However, details about how that transition will take place have not been made public.

Online poker will be a fenced-in market for Ontario, meaning 888’s player pools will potentially shrink.

What applying for a license in Ontario means to 888

To offer games to Ontario players, 888 registered with the AGCO, entering a commercial agreement with its subsidiary iGaming Ontario.

The AGCO approval sees 888 secure its 19th regulated market license, including seven US states where 888 already operates.

“We are delighted to have been awarded a licence by the AGCO and look forward to launching in the market when it officially opens,” said Itai Pazner, 888 Holdings Plc’s CEO.

“As a group, our focus is on strengthening our presence and offer to customers across key regulated markets. To that end, Ontario represents an attractive long-term growth opportunity for 888, and this is an extremely strategically important milestone for us.”

Ontario is a highly appealing region for 888 Holdings. The province is an attractive new frontier for the global online gambling sector.

“As we prepare for launch in the coming weeks, we are excited to bring all of 888’s leading products and games to new audiences across the province, providing our unique and differentiated experiences to players,” Pazner said.

Not a good time to be fined

“Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans,” – the famous quote says.

It’s undoubtedly true for 888, as the company has received a fine equaling CAD$15.87 million issued by the UK Gambling Commission for failing to protect vulnerable customers.

When the UKGC announced the fine Tuesday, it warned it could strip 888’s license if the company did not improve.

It is the second-biggest fine for the company and the third-highest in the history of British gambling regulation. In 2017, 888 already had to pay a CAD$13.17 million penalty for the same offence.

The latest fine came weeks before the UK is due to reform gambling laws. Reforms could potentially include checks to ensure people can afford betting amounts.

According to the British regulator, 888 was not correctly identifying customers at risk of harm. The company allegedly did not carry out financial checks until players had deposited £40,000 (CAD$67,600).

In addition, 888 allegedly didn’t interact with a customer who lost more than CAD$62,000 over six weeks during the pandemic. It also did not properly consider customer activity across multiple accounts.

As Pazner stated in a release, the company had taken the appropriate action to “improve and address the failings.”

Katarina Vojvodic Avatar
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Katarina Vojvodic

Katarina is a Toronto-based online gambling writer who holds a master's degree in journalism. Before joining PlayCanada, she was part of the AskGamblers crew where she reported about the world of online casinos and interviewed numerous iGaming experts. Being in the industry for 5 years, she became an expert in online slots.

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