Ontario Online Poker Making A Comeback

Written By Dave Briggs on July 29, 2022 - Last Updated on August 4, 2022
Thanks to higher numbers of poker players than both Michigan and Pennsylvania, Ontario online poker is rebounding despite restricted pools.

Ontario online poker just may be making a bit of a comeback in the province’s gambling market.

Despite being hindered by regulations allowing for Ontario-only pools, new numbers reveal the provincial market is bigger than that of both Pennsylvania and Michigan. Ontario’s three regulated poker operators — PokerStars, BetMGM and 888 — are currently averaging more than 400 users, combined, over the last seven days.

Poker in both Michigan and Pennsylvania is also, currently, restricted to in-state play.

Breaking down the Ontario online poker numbers

Our sister site, PokerScout, reveals that the seven-day average for users for the three Ontario sites was:

  • PokerStars: 200
  • BetMGM: 159
  • 888: 47

At over 400, Ontario’s average number of players is higher than either US state — even when substituting WSOP for both Michigan and Pennsylvania. WSOP is not, yet, a regulated operator in Ontario. Meanwhile, 888 does not offer poker in the two states.

Pennsylvania reported some 325 players, broken down as:

  • PokerStars: 220
  • BetMGM: 50
  • WSOP: 55

Michigan reported some 300 players, broken down as:

  • PokerStars: 140
  • BetMGM: 85
  • WSOP: 75

Compared to the rest of the poker world, PokerScout reports that PokerStars PA is ranked 27th overall and PokerStars Ontario is ranked 30th, followed by BetMGM’s Ontario poker operation in 31st.

Ontario has the population advantage

It shouldn’t be surprising that there’s higher interest in online poker in Ontario. The province has a population of 14.5 million. That exceeds both Pennsylvania (12.75) and Michigan (10 million).

Also, PokerStars and 888 have long been active in Canada prior to the opening of Ontario’s regulated market. Those sites were able to transition existing customers over to the legal market.

Restricting play to Ontario

Still, considering Ontario’s regulated poker market is just a little more than three months old. And given the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario’s decision to eliminate global poker pools and allow Ontario players only to play within the province, the latest numbers are something of a positive sign for online poker in the province.

The AGCO’s decision to ring-fence the province led poker operators to depart the global market for the first time since games of chance played for money moved onto the Internet. The same Ontario-only pool rules have also curtailed daily fantasy sports in the province.

When FanDuel opted to end its DFS operations in Ontario, the reason was simple, according to director of publicity Kevin Hennessy. He told PlayCanada:

“Unfortunately, games offered in the regulated market currently cannot include shared liquidity with other jurisdictions — meaning Ontario players would only be able to play against other Ontario players. Contests would need to be smaller, with significantly smaller prizing. With our years of experience in the DFS market, FanDuel knows such a product would not be attractive to our Ontario players.”

DraftKings has also pulled the plug on its DFS operations in Ontario for the same reason.

Poker players in Ontario may not be happy about getting cut off from the global pools. But at least they can still play.

PokerStars jumped into the Ontario lead

PokerStars leads the Ontario pack with 200 concurrent seats, followed by BetMGM Poker Ontario at 186 and 888Poker at 37.

BetMGM and 888 offered poker when launching on April 4.

Though PokerStars didn’t launch in Ontario until June 28, it caught up fast. That was due in part to its Ontario Platinum Series that was exclusively for those in Ontario. It ran from July 10 -18 and offered a $1.5 million guaranteed prize pool.

PokerStars official gaming partner of MLSE

PokerStars also has a high-profile partnership in Ontario.

The operator, which first launched in 2001, announced in early April that it had teamed up with FanDuel on a deal with Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment which owns the Maple Leafs, Raptors, Argonauts and Toronto FC.

Specifically, the deal makes PokerStars the “official gaming partner” of MLSE.

“In addition to the use of MLSE team marks in advertising and marketing, FanDuel Sportsbook, PokerStars Casino and PokerStars will be featured prominently throughout Toronto Maple Leafs and Toronto Raptors games including rink board and on-court signage,” said a press release. “The partnership will also allow FanDuel Sportsbook and PokerStars to collaborate on marketing integrations with all of MLSE’s teams.”

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Dave Briggs

Dave Briggs is a managing editor and writer for Catena Media. His expertise is covering the gambling industry in Canada with emphasis on the casino, sports betting and horse racing sectors. He is currently reporting on the gaming industries in Canada and Michigan.

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