Posted: January 29, 2022, 8:08 a.m.
Last update: January 29, 2022, 8:08 a.m.
A new era in the Canadian game will begin in just a few months. On Friday, Ontario province officials announced that approved online casino and sportsbook operators will be able to roll out their products starting April 4.
The announcement was made by iGaming Ontario (iGO), a subsidiary of the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (ACGO). Licensed operators will need to sign an operating agreement with iGO before they can get started.
“Consumers can be assured that companies that succeed in penetrating Ontario’s new market will have met rigorous standards of gaming and operator integrity, fairness, player protection and social responsibility, enabling all players to play with confidence, iGO executive director Martha Otton said in a statement.
While the launch is expected to attract several companies that have operated in licensed environments in the United States, it is possible that offshore operators that have existed in the current “grey market” environment will also be approved.
Ontario will be Canada’s largest provincial market for online gaming and sports betting. It is also one of the largest in North America. With a population of 14.8 million, Ontario is larger than US states like Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
Responsible gaming practices are a priority
In order to be licensed to offer online gaming in Ontario, operators must agree to follow the AGCO’s standards for online gaming. This includes obtaining accreditation under the Responsible Gambling Council’s Verified RG initiative and maintaining that accreditation.
They must also run “problem gambling prevention and responsible gambling campaigns” that strike a balance between responsible gambling promotion and promotional activities. They must also participate in a “centralized self-exclusion program” of bettors and share player data – stripped of any identifiable aspects – to help research into problematic and responsible gambling issues.
On Wednesday, Penn National Gaming said its Score Digital Sports Ventures, which operates the Score Bet app, had received the designation.
“We have chosen to undergo RG Check accreditation to ensure that we are able to provide the best and safest experience possible for our players,” said Josh Sidsworth, General Counsel and Chief Compliance Officer of theScore Bet. “It was important for us to obtain this accreditation before launching theScore Bet in our home market of Ontario. »
After Ontario officials made their announcement, some game companies also came forward to voice their plans.
This included the Canadian division of PointsBet.
“Between our innovative in-house technology platform that allows us to customize and adapt our app to local consumer needs and introduce revolutionary in-play betting opportunities, as well as our unique partnerships deeply rooted in our country’s sports , we will offer an unparalleled form of entertainment to Canadian sports bettors,” PointsBet Canada CEO Scott Vanderwel said in a statement.
Mixed response in the North
The expansion into online gaming is an initiative supported by the Canadian Gaming Association.
In a statement released Friday, CGA President and CEO Paul Burns called the new iGO a “major milestone” for the province.
The decision to establish a regulated iGaming marketplace in this province will ensure the people of Ontario have access to safe and legal online gaming options while encouraging investment and job creation in Ontario,” he said. “We finally have the opportunity to preserve the economic benefits that will begin flowing to licensed gaming operators and the provincial government. »
But not everyone in the Canadian gaming industry hailed the move.
Tony Rodio, CEO of Great Canadian Gaming Corp., said in a statement Friday that the company supports “iGaming in principle” and is committed to working with provincial government leaders to develop a system that provides “a level playing field which benefits the whole Province.
“Whether online or in person, Great Canadian supports fair and competitive gaming, and unfortunately the current iGaming framework falls far short of that,” said Rodio, the former CEO of Caesars. “We are disappointed with today’s decision, which puts thousands of well-paying jobs and billions of dollars in government revenue in favor of jobless offshore online gambling at risk.”
Land Game Struggles in Canada
Land-based casinos in Canada have been particularly hard hit by COVID-19. While US casinos have reopened after being closed for only a few months, many casinos north of 49and Parallel only reopened last year.
And because the omicron variant caused large spikes in cases, it led to more closures in Canada. Ontario officials even ordered land-based casinos closed earlier this month and recently gave them the green light to resume operations at half capacity starting Monday.
This includes 14 GCGC game rooms.
Now, Rodio said, the imminent launch of online games comes as “workers have spent two years worrying about their ability to return to work and support their families.”