Counting Down The 10 Biggest Gambling Stories Of 2023: Numbers 5-1

Written By Matthew Lomon on December 28, 2023 - Last Updated on January 2, 2024
PlayCanada logo and 3D Top 10 graphic to indicate PlayCanada's top 10 gambling stories of 2023.

That wasn’t too long of a wait, was it? As promised, we’re back with the second and final chapter of our two-part series counting down the 10 biggest storylines of 2023.

Part one, which featured stories 10 through six, ran yesterday. It covered pertinent topics such as market expansion, regulatory action, and the state of Ontario’s market after one year of operation, among other things. Some of these points of discussion have also found their way into the sequel.

Here, in part two, we put a bow on the year that’s been and finally reveal which feature scored the highly-coveted top spot.

Starting in reverse numerical order (so as not to spoil the surprise), we give you numbers five through one on PlayCanada’s countdown of the top 10 gambling stories of 2023.

5. Marketing expert: banning celebrity gambling endorsers in Ontario has merit

Ontario online casino and sportsbook ads featuring popular athletes and celebrities were just about everywhere at the start of 2023. This irked a number of people for a variety of reasons, but perhaps none more important than protecting minors from the appeal of gambling.

The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario was well aware of this concern. In April, the provincial gambling authority announced its intention to keep famous faces out of online gambling advertisements. That’s why in May, PlayCanada asked Dr. Antonia Mantonakis, a professor of marketing at Brock University’s Goodman School of Business if celebrity ambassadors actually appeal more to younger people?

Her answer, which came three months before the official ban announcement, was that the AGCO is right to be concerned. Simply speaking, younger people are less likely to have established firm tastes. And that is what makes them most susceptible to ads anchored by their idols, including Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews.

Representing BetMGM and Bet99, respectively, Mantonakis says these NHL superstars are more likely to appeal to younger people than “the Great One,” Wayne Gretzky, who also appeared in BetMGM promotions.

Professional gambler Harley Redlick told PlayCanada in March that he isn’t a fan of celebrity endorsers in gambling ads, either.

“We need to do a better job of protecting kids,” Redlick said. “The Connor McDavid ads are clearly targeted to children. No adult is taking gambling advice from [McDavid].”

4. Ontario online gambling supports 12,000 jobs, contributes $1.6 billion to GDP

Ontario map, job creation

Back in June, a report conducted by Deloitte and released by iGaming Ontario shedded some light on the economic contributions of the open Ontario online gambling market.

According to the report, Canada’s only regulated wagering industry supports more than 12,000 full-time equivalent jobs and contributes almost $1.6 billion to the province’s Gross Domestic Product. The GDP figure included more than $900 million in labour income.

The report also estimated that by 2031-32:

  • The number of full-time equivalent jobs could be as high as 22,000.
  • The contribution to Ontario’s GDP could be $4.7 billion.
  • Online gambling could deliver over $2.1 billion in revenue annually to the provincial government.

Deloitte’s data is as of April 26, 2023.

Amongst its other findings was that the Ontario gambling sector supports high-paying jobs. Per the report, “Employees receive an average of $103,000 a year in compensation, which is 41% higher than average job compensation across all industries in the province.”

Lastly, it determined the Ontario government’s share of annual revenue will jump from $470 million to $1.4 billion in 2031-32.

3. Ontario seeing increase in problem gambling calls

Responsible gambling

With something like the regulation of online gambling, bumps in the road were inevitable. However, that’s the case for just about any activity making the transition from illegal to government-regulated.

During the first year of Ontario’s open market, one of those challenges was an increase in problem gambling calls. But again, that was to be expected. And that’s what, Anne Counter, the director of system navigation and information services for Connex Ontario told PlayCanada in March

“With the addition of the regulated online gambling sites and apps, it has certainly increased the availability of gambling to people, and with increased opportunity, there is likely an increased likelihood of some people finding themselves struggling with their gambling.”

How much of an increase are we talking about? According to Counter, Connex experienced a surge in contacts of approximately 40% over the previous two fiscal years. Since Sept. 1, 2022, the helpline has received more than 2,000 calls about problem gambling activities.

In Ontario, it has been reported that problem gamblers account for 2% of the population but contribute up to 24% of gambling revenue. If you or anyone you know is dealing with a gambling problem and needs help, PlayCanada also has a list of responsible gambling in Ontario resources.

2. Ontario online gambling revenue 3 times bigger than other provinces

Image of hands holding coins vs. hands holding dollar bills in front of Canada flag for story on Ontario online gambling netting three times more revenue than other provinces

Failing to legalize and regulate online gambling beyond the provincial lottery option does not stop Canadians from betting illegally. Not only is regulation the safest and most effective solution for improved player safety and operational requirements, but it’s also an opportunity for provinces to benefit financially from an already existing activity.

A PlayCanada analysis from mid-November took the most recent online gambling revenues from six provinces that only offer government-run options and compared them to that of Ontario. The results proved just how much revenue the rest of Canada is missing out on.

Total online gaming revenue for the 2022-23 fiscal year:

  1. Ontario – $1.961 billion (iGO and OLG presented as one)
  2. British Columbia – $440 million
  3. Québec – $403.9 million
  4. Maritime provinces – $100.1 million

On a per capita level, the story remained the same:

  1. Ontario – $125.64
  2. British Columbia – $80.92
  3. Québec – $45.90
  4. Maritime provinces – $38.73

What’s more, Ontario has proven a government-run gambling operator can thrive in a regulated environment. Since the open market launch, OLG’s digital gambling operations sector experienced marked growth, rising to $561 million from $427 million in 2021-22. Overall, that’s a 31% increase year-over-year.

In other words, Ontario is proof a rising tide raises all boats.

1. ‘Rookie year’ of Ontario online gambling stacks up well vs. US stats

First Year Online Gambling Rankings

Here it is. The moment we’ve all been waiting for. Put your hands together for PlayCanada’s most significant storyline of 2023.

It took until October, but we finally got the full picture of how Ontario is doing against comparable US states. When measured  against the first-year revenues of the three biggest regions that also offer online casinos, Ontario finished a close second behind the top earner, Michigan:

  1. Michigan (Feb. 1, 2021-Jan. 31, 2022) — $1.55 billion
  2. Ontario (April 4, 2022-March 31, 2023) — $1.407 billion (USD)
  3. Pennsylvania (Aug. 1, 2019-July 31,2020) — $533 million
  4. New Jersey (online casinos: Dec. 1, 2013-Nov. 30, 2014 / sports betting: June 1, 2018-July 31, 2019) — $313.5 million

Breaking things down further, we split online casinos and sports betting revenues into two categories. Compared to the three biggest US online casino states, Ontario still holds the second position:

  1. Michigan — $1.206 billion
  2. Ontario — $944 million (USD)
  3. Pennsylvania — $364.3 million
  4. New Jersey — $119.5 million

The results on the sports betting side, however, were drastically different. While Ontario ranked first amongst the aforementioned states in terms of first-year sports betting revenue, it fell to fourth when some other US heavy hitters that only offer online sports betting, such as New York ($1.38 billion), Arizona ($500 million), and Illinois ($370.3 million) factored into the equation.

Overall, the per capita results remained consistent with the findings above. Ontario scored well amongst its peers on the casino side but fell behind in the sports betting category.

That’s all folks

In 2023, progress was made, just as bumps in the road were hit, but that’s all par for the course in the world of iGaming.

While there’s still plenty of room for the Canadian iGaming market to improve and grow, there’s also a wealth of reasons to be excited about all that was accomplished this calendar year. We learned that Ontario could hold its own on a continental scale, that progress is being made on adding another online gambling jurisdiction, and the regulatory bodies in charge of keeping people safe are not taking their duties lightly.

So, if 2023 is any indication of what to expect in 2024, buckle up and enjoy the ride.

Photo by PlayCanada
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Written by
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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