PlayCanada’s Year-in-Review: The Biggest Gambling Stories Of 2022

Written By Jose Colorado on December 31, 2022
canada's top 2022 gambling stories

Historic.

Of all the words to describe gambling in Canada in 2022, it’s likely the most appropriate.

Consider 2022 officially marked the launch of the Ontario online casino and sports betting market. With that came acclaim from all corners of the world. However, there were also plenty of bumps along the way.

Regardless of the outcome, PlayCanada was there covering the events. Let’s break down the year that was and look ahead to 2023.

Ontario online gambling launches on April 4

While there were plenty of micro-events leading up to it, April 4, 2022, is when things really kicked into gear.

Consider that was when Ontario launched its online gambling market under iGaming Ontario. Defined as a subsidiary of the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario, iGO works alongside AGCO and the Government of Ontario.

iGO, via its website, states its primary functions for existence are simple.

“To bring the world’s best online gambling experiences to the province in safer environment, helping to protect consumers and provide more choice.”

Previously, bettors in Ontario were only allowed to wager with the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation. However, according to many bettors, that decision resulted in a stagnant wagering experience as Ontarians had to accept a single operator’s options.

Operators flood Ontario following gambling launch

However, the creation of iGO eliminated that monopoly – improving the playing experience. Under the new system, private operators could enter the market.

And enter they did.

In fact, to date, PlayCanada notes 40 operators in the province, including huge players such as DraftKings, BetMGM and BetRivers. Compared to other North American jurisdictions, Ontario is one of only five regions to offer online casinos, Ontario sports betting and poker.

PlayCanada’s Dave Briggs reported the province had the second most live gaming operators back in October. At the time, New Jersey was first with 33.

Further, at least eight other private gaming companies have the green light to operate in the province. But they still await a finalized agreement with iGO.

Regardless, the central message of 2022 is that gaming companies want to do business in Ontario.

OperatorOfferingAGCO approvaliGO approvalLive?Launch date
888Casino, sportsbook and pokerYesYesYesApril 4, 2022
Amazon SlotsCasnoYesYesYesLate 2023
Apollo Entertainment (Captain Cooks, Casino Classic, Golden Tiger Casino, Grand Mondial Casino, Luxury Casino, Yukon Gold Casino, Zodiac Casino)CasinoYesYesYesOct. 28, 2022
Bally BetCasino and sportsbookYesYesYesJuly 20, 2022
bet365Casino and sportsbookYesYesYesApril 4, 2022
Bet99Casino and sportsbookYesYesYesOct. 31, 2022
BetanoCasino and sportsbookYesYesYesOct. 19, 2022
BetMGMCasino, sportsbook, pokerYesYesYesApril 4, 2022
BetRiversCasino and sportsbookYesYesYesApril 4, 2022
BetsafeCasino and sportsbookYesYesYesMarch 2, 2023
BettyCasinoYesYesYesMarch 10, 2023
BetVictorCasino and sportsbookYesYesYesSept. 27, 2022
BetwayCasino and sportsbookYesYesYesAug. 1, 2022
BuddyBetUnknownYesNoNoUnknown
bwinCasino and sportsbookYesYesYesApril 4, 2022
Cadtree (Jackpot City, Royal Vegas, Ruby Fortune, Spin Casino)CasinoYesYesYesAug. 10, 2022
CaesarsCasino and sportsbookYesYesYesApril 4, 2022
CanPlay CasinoCasino and sportsbookYesYesYesOct. 28, 2022
Casino DaysCasinoYesYesYesJan. 24, 2023
Casino TimeCasinoYesNoNoUnknown
CasumoCasinoYesYesYesOct. 28, 2022
ComeOn!CasinoYesYesYesJune 13, 2022
ConquestadorCasinoYesYesYesJan. 10, 2023
Deal Or No Deal CasinoCasinoYesYesYesFeb. 17, 2023
Delta BingoCasino and BingoYesYesYesEarly 2023
DraftKingsCasino and sportsbookYesYesYesMay 18, 2022
FallsviewCasino and sportsbookYesYesYesAug. 4, 2022
FanDuelCasino and sportsbookYesYesYesApril 4, 2022
Fever SlotsCasinoYesNoNoUnknown
FitzdaresCasino and sportsbookYesYesYesFeb. 6, 2023
High Flyer CasinoCasinoYesYesYesDec. 8, 2022
Kong SlotsCasinoYesNoNoUnknown
LeoVegasCasino and sportsbookYesYesYesApril 4, 2022
Lucky CasinoCasinoYesYesYesNov. 2023
Lucky DaysCasinoYesYesYesNov. 2, 2022
Magic RedCasinoYesNoNoUnknown
Mansion Casino (Play-ON casino.com, Play-ON mansioncasino.com)CasinoYesYesYesNov. 2, 2022
NeoBetCasino and sportsbookYesYesYesApril 3, 2023
NetBetYesNoNoUnknown
NorthStar BetsCasino and sportsbookYesYesYesMay 9, 2022
PartyCasino, sportsbook and pokerYesYesYesApril 12, 2022
PinnacleCasino and sportsbookYesYesYesOct. 25, 2022
PointsBetCasino and sportsbookYesYesYesApril 4, 2022
PokerStarsCasino, sportsbook and pokerYesYesYesJune 28, 2022
PowerPlay OntarioCasino and sportsbookYesYesYesApril 2023
Proline Plus (OLG)*Casino and sportsbookYesN/AYesAugust, 2021
RivalryCasino and sportsbookYesYesYesApril 4, 2022
Rootz (Wildz, Caxino, Wheelz, Spinz)CasinoYesYesYesFeb. 2, 2023
Royal PandaCasino and sportsbookYesYesYesJune 13, 2022
SkillOnNet (PlayOjo, SlotsMagic, SpinGenie, KnightSlots sites)CasinoYesYesYesJune 13, 2022
SpinAwayCasinoYesYesYesNov. 2, 2022
Sports InteractionCasino and sportsbookYesYesYesAug. 29, 2022
Stardust CasinoCasinoYesYesYesLatter half of 2023
STXSports betting exchangeYesYesYesJuly 26, 2022
theScore BetCasino and sportsbookYesYesYesApril 4, 2022
TonyBetSportsbookYesYesYesApril 2023
TWHG (Casigo, Casimba, DreamVegas, FireVegas, Gate 777, Hello Casino, Jackpot Village, Playzee)Casino and pokerYesYesYesApril 4, 2022
UnibetCasino and sportsbookYesYesYesApril 4, 2022
Videoslots (Mr. Vegas, Videoslots)YesYesYesJune 19, 2023
WSOPPokerYesYesYesSept. 30, 2022

Mohawk Council of Kahnawà:ke challenge Ontario online gambling’s legality

However, not everyone was all in on the idea.

First Nations groups were the loudest detractors, having been excluded from Bill C-218 altogether. The legislation allowed provinces to regulate single-game wagers.

However, by being omitted, critics argued the decision would push Indigenous Peoples out of the gaming expansion.

Mohawk Council of Kahnawà:ke elected council chief Ratsenhaienhs, Mike Delisle Jr., recently explained the consequences:

“To be shut out of Ontario – by far the largest province in Canada – will have devastating effects on a source of income that has supplemented programs and service in our community for the last two decades.”

Despite that, and to the dismay of many First Nations people, Ontario’s online gaming market launched on April 4.

As a result, in late November, the MCK moved to challenge the legality of the Ontario market in court.

If successful, the move would shut down the Ontario market altogether, said Delisle.

Ontario’s second quarter sees enormous growth

Truthfully, it’s not easy to imagine such a scenario.

Ultimately, money talks. After all, Ontario gets a cut from every private gaming company in the province.

To that end, the industry surpassed $10 billion in total wagers through its first six months. Meanwhile, gaming revenue nearly reached $430 million.

Overall, iGo experienced massive growth between its first (underwhelming) fiscal quarter (April 4 – June 30) and the second (July 1 – September 30).

Other key performance indicators:

  • Total gaming revenue increased 65% from Q1 to Q2 ($162 million to $267 million)
  • Handle grew 48% from Q1 to Q2 ($4.076 billion to $6.04 billion)
  • The number of active players grew 28% from Q1 to Q2 (492,000 – 628,000)
  • Average monthly spend per active player account increased 26% ($113 – $142)

Please note that these numbers don’t include OLG’s online operation or any promotional wagers (bonuses).

Transitioning from a grey to white market

As the year passed and more operators entered, so did Ontario’s revenue streams.

More businesses generally will mean more money – so that makes sense. However, there were other factors in play as well.

AGCO’s crusade on the non-legal grey market was one.

For years illegal markets had plagued the province. In fact, in 2020, the Canadian Gaming Association estimated $10 billion is lost to illicit markets annually. According to them, offshore online sports wagering sites account for an additional $4 billion.

To that end, in June, AGCO CEO Tom Mungham warned illegal operators to leave the province or risk severe sanctions. Oct.31 was the cut-off date. Ultimately, it worked. AGCO stated that 46 online operators had switched to the legal market.

Excessive ads receive heavy scrutiny

Excessive advertising was another pitfall of Ontario gambling’s economic boom.

Simply: gambling ads were – and still are – everywhere. From sports games to billboards, one would be hard-pressed to go through any major metropolitan city in Canada today without seeing one.

The issue? Often, Canadians are unaware of what is and isn’t a legal bet in their province. And according to critics, they wind up betting at illegal casinos and sportsbooks without realizing it.

To challenge those misconceptions, five provinces formed a new pan-Canadian coalition of provincial lottery corporations in August.

Its founding members include:

  • British Columbia Lottery Corp
  • Atlantic Lotto
  • Loto-Quebec
  • Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries
  • Alberta Gaming Liquor Cannabis

Limiting excessive advertisements is one of their top missions. Further, they want to make Canadians understand what is – and isn’t – a legal bet.

Responsible gambling needs to be prioritized

Given those circumstances, responsible gambling emerged as a natural by-product.

Sure, operators have tossed around the topic in the past. But it came to the forefront in 2022.

For example, OLG doubled down on its efforts by launching My PlayBreak. Coined as a customizable self-exclusion program, the government agency added to its already award-winning responsible gambling portfolio.

Meanwhile, in B.C., a radical shift in thought was happening. According to BCLC, moving forward, they would be positioning themselves as a social purpose organization – challenging the conventional wisdom of what a gambling company can be.

Outside of the provincial lotteries, others were ensuring a responsible gambling environment.

Consider AGCO levied several fines to high-profile companies such as BetMGM and PointsBet Canada for failing to adhere to its ad policy banning credits, bonuses and inducements.

The move showed the regulating body wasn’t afraid of standing firm in its commitment to a safe and responsible gambling environment.

Retail sportsbooks open in Ontario

Regardless, the Ontario betting market isn’t slowing down anytime soon.

In late October, OLG announced that select Ontario casinos would offer in-person sports betting. Previously only online sports betting was possible.

At the moment, the following establishments have dedicated sportsbooks lounges – dubbed Great Canadian Sportsbooks:

  • Great Blue Heron Casino & Hotel
  • Pickering Casino Resort
  • Elements Casino Brantford
  • Shorelines Casino Belleville

Meanwhile, these six Ontario casinos added sportsbook kiosks:

However, the big fish is Caesars Windsor. Billed as one of Ontario’s best casinos, the establishment has announced its intentions to launch its retail sportsbooks in early 2023.

Given that these land-based casinos are already a part of OLG’s Municipality Contribution Agreement, one would expect the added retail sportsbook to drive up revenue even further in 2023.

Ontario’s gambling sector in 2023

Altogether, Canada’s gambling industry made history in 2022.

Yes, it had its hiccups along the way. But ultimately, iGo provides substantial economic benefits to many players and stakeholders.

Granted, the First Nations challenge remains a dark cloud. A middle ground would exponentially benefit the market.

To that end, expect 2023 to be a year of (re)defining the market as gambling continues to evolve in Ontario and beyond.

Photo by Shutterstock
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Jose Colorado

Jose Colorado is a British Columbia-based writer. He lives in Burnaby and loves sports, anime, writing, business and the occasional walk on the beach.

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