AGCO Quietly Revises Launch Timeline, Seeks Feedback On Sports and Event Betting Standards For Lottery and Land

Written By Robyn McNeil on December 22, 2021
Mobile Electronic Traffic Sign stating “expect Delays” taken at sunset with traffic blurred driving past the sign and traffic cones

The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) is looking for input to expand Ontario’s sport and event betting markets.

The regulator quietly released draft versions of revised regulatory standards for lotto and land-based sports and event betting on Friday

The move, says AGCO, is the start of building the sport and event betting regulatory programs for lottery and land-based gaming. Once finalized, AGCO will integrate the principles into each sector’s regulatory and technical standards. 

In the wake of Bill C-218 (the Safe and Regulated Sports Betting Act), AGCO aims to boost the sector’s regulatory framework. The changes will allow for a well-regulated market across lottery, land-based, and online gaming that includes enhanced betting options.

416 will regulate

According to AGCO, expanding existing regulations to include specific standards will minimize the potential risk of a compromised betting market. The revised protocols will lessen the risk of  insider betting or game manipulation by requiring operators to: 

  • monitor the betting markets for suspicious betting activity
  • prohibit insiders (coaches, athletes and referees) from betting on specific events
  • ensure sport and event offerings meet acceptable betting criteria

The latest regulatory revisions are a continuation of a process started earlier this year. 

That push culminated in the September release of the Registrar’s Standards for Internet Gaming, specifically covering online betting. 

Those standards intend to provide comprehensive outcomes-based rules covering responsible gambling and anti-money laundering. The policies also address consumer protection and information security and will commence when Ontario’s new online gaming market launches.

Since that release, the AGCO reviewed existing regulations for the lottery and land-based sectors. That revisit laid the groundwork for updated standards for lotto and land, specifically considering sport and event betting. 

Anyone familiar with the finalized internet gaming standards will notice a similarity. 

The new frameworks mirror the regulation and event betting plan for internet gaming. However, the latest drafts required modifications to reflect the realities of the lottery and land-based sectors.

Changes to land and lottery

The most significant proposed additions or revisions to lottery and land-based standards currently in place will require: 

  • understandable sport and event bets and resources available on how to place bets
  • acceptable betting criteria are applied to determine allowable bets and bet types
  • mitigation of specific integrity risks associated with lottery and land-based sport and event betting (including scanning for unusual/suspicious betting patterns) and partnership with an independent integrity monitor
  • removal of the requirement for gaming systems to be located within Ontario to allow for an increased variety of operating models

Lotto specific requirements will also ask operators to:

  • not permit certain types of bets, including in-game and peer-to-peer betting
  • not permit individual bets over $100

And changes proposed for land-based require operators to:

  • mitigate risks associated with anonymous play, including by monitoring transactions to detect players seeking to circumvent betting integrity and (or) anti-money laundering reporting requirements
  • provide players with a record of placed bets

Consistent with current requirements for approval of rules of play for lottery products, all sport and event betting rules of play will remain subject to approval. 

Land-based operators, however, will not be required to get approval for rules of play. That said, if a presented bet is commonly understood to function in a specific way, it must operate as expected.

Speak truth

AGCO is seeking input on these latest draft standards to ensure the effective regulation of sport and event betting via lottery and land. 

Principles of honesty, integrity, and upholding public interest are particularly important, as are consumer protection and choice.

Comments collected via AGCO’s engagement portal are due by Tuesday, January 25, 2022. Participants will need to register on the portal to access the draft standards and log input. 

One important note: access to the portal can take up to one business day after you’ve created your account. So, anyone intending to share their views should sign up sooner than later.

Launch details? Shhh!

Speaking of sooner or later, the answer everyone is looking for is pretty singular: 

When will Ontario’s online market launch?

For the last months, that date has been in December 2021. Recently, however, those in the know have started referencing February or March 2022 as a more likely outcome. 

An early February launch date would mean it would be full-steam ahead for operators ahead of the Super Bowl. However, the latest insider talk points to kick-off in late February or early March. If true, that means Ontario Lottery and Gaming (OLG) would be the only legal game in town for betting on the Bowl’s 56th showing

While the AGCO government has so far kept any launch day details to itself, there have been almost unnoticeable confirmations of the delay.

One such hint involves a roadmap to launch first released by AGCO in April 2021. When first released, the roadmap placed the launch date firmly in late 2021.

Then, in July, a revised roadmap identified the rumoured December 2021 market start. But with nine days left this month and the industry now speculating about Q1, the odds seem to lack favour.

Finally, on December 20, AGCO stealthy released an updated roadmap marking the launch not with a month or day but a non-committal ‘To Be Announced.’  

Without more to go on, all the industry can do is hope the announcement comes soon.

 

Photo by Shutterstock/F Armstrong Photography
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Robyn McNeil

Robyn McNeil is a Nova Scotia-based writer and editor. She lives in Halifax in an empty nest with a mischievous cat and a penchant for good stories, strong tea, cheeseburgers, yoga, graveyards, hammocks, gardening, games, herb, and hoppy beer.

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