Canadian iGaming Leaders Discuss Legal Apps vs. Grey Market At G2E

Written By Matthew Lomon on October 12, 2023

This year’s edition of the G2E Global Gaming Expo featured a host of major players from the Canadian iGaming industry.

Running from Oct. 9 to 12 at The Venetian Las Vegas, the summit offered a chance for some of the most influential players in the international gambling game to exchange information and learn more about the industry on a global scale.

The Great White North was in the spotlight on Day 1 during a discussion panel labeled, “18 months in: Updates on the Canadian iGaming Market.” Moderated by Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario CEO Karin Schnarr, the list of distinguished speakers also included:

  • Martha Otton, executive director of iGaming Ontario
  • Chantal Cipriano, vice president of legal, compliance and government relations at PointsBet Canada
  • Amanda Brewer, country manager in Canada for Kindred Group
  • Shelley White, CEO of the Responsible Gaming Council

Together, the group touched on several pertinent topics floating around the Canadian gambling sphere, including the state of Ontario online casinos.

Licensed operators still butt heads with grey-market sites

Despite marked year-over-year growth in a range of categories, Cipriano said Canada’s only regulated third-party iGaming jurisdiction continues to experience difficulties with grey-market and non-Canadian sites. In particular, the PointsBet exec singled out marketing and advertising as areas of difficulty.

Her comments come in the wake of the AGCO’s recent decision to ban athletes from appearing in commercials for Ontario online sportsbooks and online casinos. The new rules, which also limit the use of notable figures (i.e., celebrities and influencers), will take effect on Feb. 28, 2024.

While the measures should help reduce gambling’s appeal to minors, they themselves have their own grey area. And, that concerns Cipriano and her fellow panel members.

Cipriano went on to suggest some US-based operators could dance around the rules and “do indirectly what they can’t do directly.” Further, she mentioned that a number of grey-market operators in Ontario broadcast their ads nationwide, where privatized iGaming remains illegal.

The second reading for Bill s-269, which calls for the installation of a national framework on gambling advertising, is currently in progress.

White: ‘There needs to be greater investment in responsible gambling’

Ontario’s iGaming space is internationally renowned for its stringent responsible gaming accreditation criteria. Here, operators hoping to enter the market must abide by and promote responsible gambling in Canada to earn and maintain their licenses.

However, the CEO of the RGC believes more needs to be done to protect vulnerable players from predatory grey-market operators. White recommended an updated RG strategy that also involves a nationwide framework, with provinces able to individually apply additional measures.

She continued by saying the online player base is incredibly data-rich, and technological advancements such as machine learning can help process that information into concrete data and actionable solutions to improve consumer protections.


PointsBet and Kindred Group reps agree with White

Cipriano built on White’s sentiment, saying that although RG accreditation standards are strict, some grey-market sites still target at-risk players. For that reason, she wants to see nationwide uniformity to curb the illicit behaviours of invasive, unregulated operators.

Brewer also weighed in, saying consumers and broadcasters need more information about the RG policies that govern Ontario operators. This starts, she says, with numerous checks and balances, artificial intelligence-driven problem gambling detection, and greater access to support tools.

“From a consumer-protection point of view, it’s paramount that some attention starts getting paid to this sooner than later,” Brewer said during the panel.

“These are things that will come over time, and as we are able to tackle this next level of challenges, that will only strengthen the Ontario market and the resolve of operators to stay committed to the Ontario market.”

Photo by Shutterstock
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Matthew Lomon

Matthew Lomon has been a contributor at Catena Media’s network of regional sites since July 2022. He first broke into covering the legal North American gambling industry with PlayCanada. Since then, Matthew's reporting has extended to PlayMichigan, PlayPennsylvania, and PlayIllinois. Based out of Toronto, Ontario, Matthew is an avid (bordering on fanatic) sports fan.

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