Reviewing SBC Media’s Documentary On Ontario Online Gambling Landscape

Written By Matthew Lomon on October 16, 2023
Screenshot of SBC documentary that explores unique approach of Ontario online gambling sector

On Oct. 6, SBC Media released a reflective documentary titled ‘The Ontario Frontier: Exploring the iGaming Landscape.”

The short feature film took a look back on year one of the Ontario online gambling market through the eyes of three industry leaders:

  • Martha Otton, Executive Director at iGaming Ontario
  • Shelley White, CEO of the Responsible Gambling Council
  • Scott Vanderwel, CEO of PointsBet Canada

Here, the trio spoke about all that went into making Ontario online casinos one of the most competitive online gambling markets in the world.

Proactive, thoughtful, and deliberate

These were the words used to describe the process of launching Ontario’s regulated online gambling market.

Whether by design or coincidence, all three speakers agreed it had to be that way not to risk squandering a golden opportunity in what was essentially an untapped market prior to April 4, 2022. But to ensure post-launch results met pre-launch expectations, the parties involved needed to be proactive, thoughtful, and deliberate.

That’s why getting the project in motion back in 2019 was so critical to its success.

According to White, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario and iGaming Ontario used this time to observe how other jurisdictions from around the world implemented their iGaming programs. Doing so made it possible to take what they learned and apply certain concepts in Ontario.

The entities had a chance to put their plan into action about three years later. However, in the fall of 2021, the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation was able to offer single-event sports betting. This was the first time consumers had access to a regulated form of online gambling in Ontario.

Journey prior to launch was ‘one of learning’

The time period between the OLG’s offering and the opening of the market is one Vanderwel considers a time of learning.

“If you think about the way the market was set up, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario became the overall regulator and they created a subsidiary called iGaming Ontario, which became the conduct and manage entity for the new regime,” said Vanderwel around the 2:10-mark.

“And just in the same way PointsBet was setting up, so was iGO.”

Despite a ‘learn on the fly’ start, Ontario’s online gambling sector, quickly proved its worth, especially on the casino side.

Online casinos reign supreme in Ontario

On Thursday, iGaming Ontario revealed in its Q2 report for the 2023-24 fiscal year (from July 1 to Sept. 30, 2023) how much each sector contributes to the province’s total gaming revenue and handle.

Although it came as a slight surprise to some, online casinos are the engine that drives Ontario’s iGaming market. To what degree? Well, of the $14.2 billion in total bets (handle) and $540 million in total gaming revenue over those three months, 84% of the handle ($11.9 billion) and 75% of the revenue ($407 million) came from online casinos.

Because of the resounding success on the casino side, Vanderwel is anticipating heavier investments into PointsBet’s casino offering.

“We’re probably redirecting more investment [to the casino product] than we might have thought we were going to in the early days,” he said. “I expect over the next 6, 12, 18 months that the most dramatic acceleration of our product experience is going to come on the casino side.”

The documentary went live three days before iGaming Ontario released its numbers for the second quarter of Fiscal Year 2023-24. Online casino revenue rose 3.8% from $392 million to $407 million, while handle jumped by 2.6% to $11.9 billion.

Once again, there was no questioning which sector reigns supreme in Ontario.


Two pull factors help Ontario stand out, per experts

A population of 15.6 million and a government with a desire to forward the regulated gaming industry certainly make Ontario an appealing market for operators. But that’s not at all Canada’s premier gaming jurisdiction has to offer.

Perhaps it’s the fact that operators don’t have to physically base their operations in Ontario. While iGO Executive Director Martha Otton says that’s one reason, she offered another from the company’s recent Economic Development Report:

“We’re talking about direct, indirect, and induced employment of around 12,000 good jobs,” she said.

“I’d like to be able to continue to foster that and have it so it’s not just revenue share we’re taking from operators, but we actually have the support systems in place, whether it’s through the education of talent that operators say ‘I want to come to Ontario because they have the best software programmers’ or that there are other reasons the operators want to locate here.”

Otton’s assessment expresses optimism that Ontario can not only thrive as a global competitor, but more importantly as a leader.

And to her point, responsible gambling in Canada is another one of those reasons operators choose Ontario.

The RGC and White took centre stage in the film’s final moments to discuss the global influence of Ontario’s RG framework. In short, operators who obtain an Ontario license must go through a two-year RG accreditation check to keep said license. Initially, White thought that may be met with pushback, but she said it’s been the complete opposite.

“Some of the operators, they only had to get their RG accreditation check for Ontario, but they thought this was such a positive thing for them to do that they actually extended it to some of their other jurisdictions as well,” she said around the 12:30-mark.

“We’ve also heard from the operators that what they’ve learned and what they’re having to do in Ontario with respects to responsible gambling, they’re now incorporating that into the other jurisdictions that they’re operating in as well.”

What does all that mean? Let’s turn it over to White one last time.

“It seems as though Ontario’s going to play quite an influential role in advancing responsible gambling outside of Canada.”

Photo by Screenshot from SBC Media documentary
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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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