Retail Ontario Sportsbooks A Poor And Troubling Experience For Pro Bettor

Written By Dave Briggs on November 23, 2022
Betting sports anonymously at Ontario casino kiosks is great for some sharp bettors, but could open the door to money laundering.

Professional sports bettor and gaming law professor Harley Redlick said Great Canadian Entertainment’s retail Ontario sportsbooks leave much to be desired.

And, he worries retail ON sports betting locations could provide a way to launder money.

Specifically, the betting kiosks, powered by Kambi, opened less than a month ago at 10 GCE casinos in the province. October 28 was the first day retail sportsbooks were allowed to open in Ontario. Naturally, the experience should improve in time.

But Redlick’s charge that sports betting kiosks could provide a loophole for money laundering is a serious one.

“They even advertise this — it’s anonymous. You’re just putting cash in a machine. I don’t know how much longer it can go on. You could easily launder $10,000, $20,000 a week doing this,” Redlick said, adding the maximum bet allowed is $500.

And the website for the Pickering Casino Resort (screen shot below) clearly states its sports betting “kiosks do not require you to set up an account.”

Great Canadian Entertainment Ontario retail sportsbooks

“They pretty much advertise bet anonymously. Who is that targeting, exactly? It’s targeting problem gamblers whose wives know they have a problem. It’s not targeting anybody good,” Redlick said.

GCE says it has a “robust AML program”

Chuck Keeling, GCE’s executive vice president of stakeholder engagement, community and social responsibility, told PlayCanada:

“There are controls in place to detect potential money laundering activities at sports betting kiosks, including refining, among other money laundering indicators.”

Further, Keeling said those controls have been reviewed and approved by the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation to ensure GCE complies with the government of Canada’s Proceeds of Crime, Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Act and its related provincial anti-money laundering regulatory requirements.

“GCE has a robust AML program that has been established for all of our gaming products within our Ontario casinos, including sports betting,” Keeling said. “Prior to launching sports betting in Ontario, there was thoughtful consideration of risks in relation to money laundering.”

Also, he said all of Great Canadian’s AML controls are also subject to audit by the OLG, Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario and the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada.

You can also bet anonymously at Fallsview and Caesars Windsor

GCE competitors in Windsor and Niagara Falls have also opened retail sports betting kiosks that allow you to bet anonymously. In fact, this is a common feature with sports betting kiosks in the United States.

On Nov. 1, Caesars Windsor casino opened up 10 sports betting kiosks. A full sports betting lounge is in the works.

Also, Niagara Fallsview Casino Resort launched 21 sportsbook kiosks on Nov. 16. Fifteen kiosks will open at Casino Niagara on Wednesday. And sports fans can watch games at the LEV2L Sports Bar while enjoying a selection of game-day food and beverage choices.

Specifically, Caesars Windsor’s website says its sports betting kiosks are “Canadian cash only.” And, the maximum bet is $500 for non-Caesars Rewards members. But, those that swipe their rewards card — and, thus, can be traced — can bet up to $1,000.

Fallsview Casino Resort’s website does not specifically state whether you can bet anonymously, but it is strongly presumed that is the case for two reasons:

  1. The kiosks, like the ones at GCE facilities, are powered by Kambi.
  2. Fallsview’s rewards program — Momentum — cannot be earned at the kiosks.

Betting anonymously does have advantages

On the plus side, Redlick said making an Ontario sports bet at a retail kiosk provides one major advantage over betting online. And it’s the same thing that has Redlick concerned about the potential for money laundering: the process is anonymous.

“No matter who you are, you can bet 500 bucks a game. If you’re a sharp bettor who’s being cut off, this is advantageous.”

Pro sports bettor Harley Redlick
Harley Redlick

Cashing out policy is “beyond annoying”

That said, Redlick found a lot of things that were frustrating about the retail sports betting experience he had.

Cashing your sports bet can only be done at the same GCE casino where the bet was placed. That is “beyond annoying,” Redlick said.

“If you bet at Pickering, you have to cash your ticket at Pickering. You can’t cash it at Woodbine. And it’s nuts because they’re both owned by Great Canadian,” Redlick said.

“If you bet a sportsbook ticket at any MGM property in Vegas, you can cash it at any MGM property. It’s extra nuts because this is sports. You’re betting a ticket that is going to last for a few hours or a day. Why would you have to go back to the same Great Canadian casino?”

Caesars Windsor has the same policy. That location is the only place where you can cash sports bets placed there.

Also, Redlick said GCE also needs to improve the cash-out process.

“When I went to cash, I was at the cage. [But] only one of the three or four cages is allowed [to cash sports bets]. There’s even a sign that only this cage is allowed to cash out sports tickets,” Redlick said. “And to make matters worse, there’s only one designated person that’s allowed to cash out tickets. So, when I went to cash out my ticket, they were on break, so I had to come back 20 minutes later.

“When you’re competing with online and you want to do it live, these are things that Great Canadian just can’t do if they want to have any success with this.”

Redlick gambled at retail Ontario sportsbooks at Pickering and Woodbine

Redlick told PlayCanada he bet on sports at Pickering on Saturday, Nov. 12 and at Woodbine on Thursday, Nov. 17.

At both locations, Redlick bet via kiosk. Though, he said the sports betting setup at Pickering was much nicer. No surprise there. Pickering is home to one of Great Canadian’s four dedicated sports lounges in Ontario. The three others are located at:

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

Further, at those locations, customers can watch live games. Also, food and drinks are available.

Meanwhile, Woodbine is one of six other GCE casino properties in Ontario that simply have sportsbook kiosks. Besides Woodbine, those locations — most found at racetracks — are:

  • Shorelines Casino Peterborough
  • Elements Casino Mohawk
  • Shorelines Casino Thousand Islands
  • Elements Casino Grand River
  • Elements Casino Flamboro

Pickering compares with a B- or C-rated casino sportsbook

Further, of the two Great Canadian casinos Redlick went to, he said Pickering was more akin to an actual retail sportsbook experience.

“In Pickering, it’s a kiosk, and it’s near a bunch of TVs in a bar,” Redlick said. “The kiosk machine is probably a 10-second walk to where there’s a bunch of chairs and couches and TVs and a bar. It’s in a separate room. The Pickering one feels like a sportsbook. The Woodbine ones look like they just jammed them in the middle of the casino.

“If you go to Pickering, it would compare with some of the B or C-rated casinos and sportsbooks. At Woodbine, there’s zero experience. There’s your kiosk. You’re surrounded by slot machines. It’s just no experience. It’s just placing a bet on a sporting event.”

Bottom line, Redlick said interest in betting sports via the kiosks was low on the nights he was at the casinos.

“I think if you combine the two you could say volume seems to be low out of the gate during a very busy sports time. The Leafs were playing [on Nov. 17] and there was a football game on. When I went Saturday to Pickering I was there for a little while. I was probably there 15-20 minutes. And it was 6:30 at night, primetime before the hockey starts. There were games on and everything and there was nobody else at the kiosks.”

Photo by Shutterstock
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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 North America with emphasis on the casino, sports betting, horse racing and poker sectors. He is currently reporting on the gaming industries in Canada and Illinois.

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