All In: Torstar To Launch Ontario-Based NorthStar Bets Online Casino And Sportsbook

Written By Robyn McNeil on July 9, 2021 - Last Updated on June 30, 2022
Casino games: pair of hands on a red table mat pushing multiple stacks of brightly coloured chips toward the dealer, a 5-card 4-of-a kind hand lays face up in the foreground

Torstar Corporation is rolling the dice with a move into the new and regulated Ontario online gambling market. 

Last summer, the collector of papers, which includes the Toronto Star and Hamilton Spectator, confirmed plans for a 2021 launch. The launch of Ontario’s expanded market of operators has since been pushed back to April 4, 2022.

According to John Boynton, Vice-Chair of Torstar owner NordStar Capital, they are eager to enter Ontario’s regulated gambling space. Particularly with a made-in-Ontario online casino and sportsbook option. 

“We are excited to offer sports wagering as part of our product offering,” said Boynton in a media release. “We believe the exciting sports coverage that our world-class sports journalists create will complement our sports wagering platform.” 

In late February 2022, the company announced the brand will be known as NorthStar Bets.

Canada’s gambling evolution

A few weeks ago, whether single-event wagers would even be part of Ontario’s competitive market was still up in the air. 

At the time, Bill C-218 was still making its way through Parliament without certainty it would pass before the summer break. However, the bill legalizing single-event sports betting in Canada eventually passed its third reading in the Senate. And on June 29, the legislation received Royal Assent.

Torstar’s release also applauds the Government of Ontario’s launch of iGaming Ontario. Announced July 6, the agency is responsible for conducting and managing private operators in Ontario’s internet gambling space.

“Torstar supports a legal and regulated iGaming market that will provide consumer choice,” said Jordan Bitove, co-owner of Torstar. 

Bitove also noted consumer protections, increased tax revenue, and robust responsible gaming initiatives as pros to regulation.

In an announcement released earlier this year, Paul Rivett, Torstar’s Chair and co-owner, also connected regulation to decreased criminality.

“Legal sports wagering will take money away from illegal sportsbooks,” said Rivett.  It will also “put in place consumer protections and ensure there is integrity in the sports wagering process.” 

Keeping the lights on

While Torstar’s move into the gambling sector is unexpected, it’s certainly a creative way to keep its papers afloat.

For example, the Toronto Star follows the Atkinson principles. Those principles, named after publisher Joseph E. Atkinson, who ran the paper from 1899-1948, aim to advance progressive causes.  

Although under new ownership, those causes— including worker protections, civil liberties, and social justice, are still the paper’s guiding principles. And they still form the intellectual foundation of the Star’s distinctive voice.

The new owners say they are branching into online gambling to help pay for those continuing efforts.

“Doing this as part of Torstar will help support the growth and expansion of quality community-based journalism,” said Rivett.

They also want to ensure the new marketplace offers players an Ontario-based brand to maximize the entertainment dollars staying in the province.

“We want to offer online gaming in a reasonable and responsible way,” he said. “It’s something that, if done responsibly, allows people to partake in their form of recreation and entertainment without making bad decisions.”

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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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