For ages the million-dollar question has been, “When will the Ontario online gaming market launch?”
After months of waiting, the industry and players have an answer: April 4.
On Friday, iGaming Ontario announced the market’s highly anticipated launch via press release.
According to the release, beginning April 4, private operators registered with the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario that signed agreements with iGO can start offering their games in Ontario.
“Consumers can be assured that companies who successfully enter the new Ontario market will have met rigorous standards of game and operator integrity, fairness, player protections and social responsibility, allowing all players to play with confidence,” Martha Otton, iGO’s Executive Director said, in a statement.
The significant expansion of the online casinos in Ontario and online sports betting apps is a little more than two months away in Canada’s most populous province.
Initial plans lead to unexpected delays
Initially, the government expected to launch the expanded online casino and sports betting market last December.
But due to delays, that date was later pushed to early 2022.
Ontario’s announcement comes on the heels of Bill C-218 becoming law on Aug. 27, 2021. The bill paved the way for provinces to introduce single-event sports betting to existing lottery options.
Thanks to the legal change to the Criminal Code, Canadians could now place bets on a single game or event. But, it is up to provincial lotteries to license and regulate single-event sports betting in their respective jurisdictions.
Even then, Ontario was already ahead of the game. The province had previously announced intentions to open its online gaming market in its 2019 budget.
To that end, the AGCO developed an online gambling regulatory guide to educate interested operators and suppliers on applying for registration. They also established iGaming Ontario; the subsidiary tapped to ‘conduct and manage,’ the new market for the province. On Sept. 13, 2021, iGO officially began accepting applications.
Hurry hard; operators jockey for position ahead of an official date
While waiting for a launch date, commercial operators looked to stake their claim in Ontario’s emerging online betting market.
FansUnite was among the first to apply to become a registered gaming supplier.
“As a Canadian-grown company, we’ve been looking forward to the day where we can operate in our home country,” CEO Scott Burton said in a release.
“Ontario’s success will set the framework and serve as the blueprint for how the rest of the provinces could approach regulated gaming. That said, we are eager to be a part of that success.”
Rivalry and other sportsbook operators soon followed.
Industry breathes a collective sigh of relief
After months spent in purgatory, those in the industry are celebrating the launch announcement.
“With an official launch date now announced, PointsBet Canada is thrilled to continue realizing our mission of delivering an authentically Canadian gaming experience to Ontario’s great sports fans,” said Scott Vanderwel, CEO of PointsBet Canada in a statement.
“Between our innovative, in-house technology platform that allows us to customize and tailor our app per the needs of the local consumer and introduce revolutionary in-game betting opportunities, as well as our unique partnerships deeply rooted in our nation’s sports, we will offer an unrivalled form of entertainment to Canadian sports bettors.”
GCGC throws a wrench in the machine
Last week, Great Canadian Gaming Corporation leaked a report that said the online gambling market in Ontario would have negative consequences for the province.
Specifically, the report concluded Ontario would lose $2.8 billion in tax revenue in five years.
Also, the report predicted land-based casinos would shrink their workforce by 25%, resulting in the loss of nearly 2,500 jobs.
Many proponents for the industry, however, felt differently.
One such opinion belongs to Jeffrey Haas, senior vice-president of DraftKings. Haas took issue with the report’s conclusion that players would abandon casinos for online betting. Instead, he believes players will transition from unregulated offshore sites to the regulated market.
“People who are playing in online casinos and online sportsbooks and online poker rooms will continue to do so,” he said in an interview with CBC. “Except they’re going to go from playing offshore to onshore. And anybody who continues to walk into real casinos in order to play games there will continue to do so.”