Everything You Need To Know About The Launch Of Ontario’s Regulated iGaming Market

The open market goes live on Monday, April 4
ontario map

The wait is finally over, as the launch of Ontario’s regulated iGaming and sports betting market is set for Monday, April 4.

Up to 30 private operators Monday morning may be able to launch their respective online gaming platforms — which can include sports betting, legal online casinos, and eSports — in the province. These operators are required to be licensed by two government-appointed regulators: the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario and iGaming Ontario.

As of Friday, 19 operators had been granted licenses with the AGCO and were authorized to launch their respective products early Monday after having also secured an operating agreement with iGO.

Operators wishing to do business in Ontario are required to pay a $100,000 licensing fee and a 20% tax on all revenue, a far cry from the 50% tax that land-based casinos currently pay the Ontario government.

Legal online gambling has existed solely under Ontario Lottery and Gaming (OLG) in the province. OLG launched its online sports betting product, PROLINE +, after single-game wagering was legalized across Canada on Aug. 27 with the passing of Bill-218.

The Canadian Gaming Association, a national trade association that represents leading gaming operators and suppliers, estimates $2 million (CAD) is wagered through organized crime and illegal offshore gambling sites every single day in Canada.

Roughly 15 million Canadians call Ontario home, making it one of the largest iGaming markets in North America. Ontario is also the first province in Canada to adopt an open iGaming model.

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Which operators are launching in Ontario?

The number of operators is in flux, with more than the 18 potentially to be added by Monday. All operators need a signed operating agreement with iGO before they can go live, as the following have:

  1. Annexio Limited (lottogo.ca)
  2. BetMGM
  3. Coolbet
  4. FanDuel
  5. Fitzdares
  6. Bet365
  7. LeoVegas
  8. NSUS Limited (wsop.ca)
  9. OLG (already operating in the province)
  10. PointsBet
  11. Rivalry
  12. Royal Panda
  13. Rush Street Interactive (BetRivers)
  14. theScore Bet
  15. Unibet
  16. 888
  17. TWHG Inc (eight websites approved: casigo.com, dreamvegas.com, etc.)
  18. Caesars
  19. Electraworks Maple Limited (bwin, party)

Other operators that could launch in Ontario soon:

  1. Bet99
  2. BetRegal
  3. Betsafe
  4. BetVictor
  5. Betway
  6. Casino.com Sports
  7. DraftKings
  8. Golden Nugget
  9. MaximBet
  10. NorthStar Bets
  11. Pinnacle
  12. TonyBet

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Drawbacks of moving to a regulated market

The transition to a regulated market has been complicated in Ontario, which has for years allowed gray market operators to conduct business in the province. In the transition to becoming a regulated sportsbook, current gray operators such as Bet365, Coolbet, and Unibet must settle all pending bets with their existing users in the province before launch date. Any outstanding futures bets, for example, will need to be settled or voided before these previously gray sportsbooks become officially regulated. It’s up to the book to decide how exactly to settle such wagers.

The regulated market is also causing headaches for daily fantasy sports players in Ontario. Although the new AGCO regulations don’t exactly prohibit DFS in Ontario, they’re making it unfeasible economically for operators such as FanDuel and DraftKings to continue their DFS operations.

“AGCO has treated DFS as a gambling product in the [Ontario] regulatory standards, so FanDuel and DK could still offer [DFS] but there is no liquidity permitted in Ontario in the new market, which DFS needs to be successful — they could only create pools with Ontario players,” CGA President and CEO Paul Burns recently told US Bets.

FanDuel announced it would officially no longer offer free or paid DFS games effective last Friday, and DraftKings also planned to shut down its DFS operations prior to Monday.

The impending launch of the regulated market in Ontario also isn’t sitting well with First Nations groups in the province.

Chief Adam Pawis of Shawanaga First Nation community told Sports Handle last December the relationship between Ontario Indigenous groups and the provincial government is fractured, particularly on gaming issues. He says tribal groups in the province haven’t been consulted on these changes to the gaming industry, violating the group’s inherent right to to be consulted on issues pertaining to games of chance and gambling.

“There is no concept, at this point, to include us in the iGaming model, sports betting model, in any of these new opportunities,” Pawis said. “By disallowing First Nations in Ontario and across the country to participate, it’s a form of economic genocide.”

In 2008, the OLG signed an agreement with Ontario First Nations Limited Partnership (OFNLP), which required OLG to allocate only 1.7% of annual gross revenue — including revenue from lotteries, slot machines, and table games — to First Nations. A trend toward online gambling and away from land-based casino wagering could have a negative economic impact on the First Nation groups that depend on this gaming revenue from the government.

The Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation are also against the move to a regulated market.

A recent report from Great Canadian Gaming, which owns many of the major casinos in Ontario, such as Casino Woodbine, Casino Ajax, and Pickering Casino Resort, suggested Ontario’s government could cost itself $550 million per annum by shifting to an open market, and there could be substantial job losses in the sector.

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Advertising restrictions and responsible gaming

Government regulators have set strict advertising guidelines for iGaming and sports betting operators launching in the province.

The advertising standards spell out that minors, self-excluded persons, or high-risk players should not be targeted. A responsible gaming message must be included in all advertising, and the iGO logo needs to be on all operator websites, advertising channels, and social media. Operators cannot use public advertising or social media to promote bonuses, and a level of consent will be needed from players in order to for them to receive deposit, sign-up, or bonus offer information.

No current rules limit the volume of sports betting advertising. Individual broadcasters, especially in the cable TV realm, have a role to play and will ultimately determine how many gambling ads are aired. In advance of over 30 operators possibly hitting the regulated market, the volume of sports betting advertisements has been increasing.

Additionally, iGO has provisions in its operating agreement that allow it to limit advertising in a quick manner. The agency and thinkTV plan to monitor the increase in sports ads closely.

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Geolocation standards

Regulators will require private operators to have player location validation technology in place. Everyone betting in the regulated iGaming market must be within Ontario borders at the time of placing the wager.

Two companies — GeoComply and LocationSmart — are third-party location service providers that could be used in Ontario to provide cybersecurity solutions to detect location fraud and verify a user’s true identity.

GeoComply’s industry-leading software is installed on over 400 million devices worldwide and analyzes over 3 billion transactions a year. The company is already working with major sportsbooks in the U.S. including FanDuel, BetMGM, DraftKings, and Caesars.

GeoComply has been closely monitoring player locations and betting activity in New York state since it launched its sports betting market in January.

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Sports betting 101

A recent study by Deloitte Canada estimated potential bettors, defined as those who haven’t placed any wagers over the previous 12 months but are open to doing so due to legalization, make up 58.5% of the sports betting community in Canada. The majority of those identify as female (57%), and are in the 25-to-64 age group.

Many Ontarians will now be planning to make their first legal wagers and may have no idea where to begin. Rob Pizzola, a professional Canadian sports bettor, recently shared some tips for beginners with Sports Handle:

  • Educate yourself on basic betting terminology, types of bets, and betting lines using YouTube, Google, books, and educational resources offered by sportsbooks and affiliates.
  • Sign up for accounts with at least three sportsbooks, but preferably more, so you can compare odds and shop for the best betting lines. Take advantage of any bonus offers being promoted by sportsbooks and essentially use any bonus funds to place your first wagers with little to no risk.
  • Set a budget and distribute these funds across all of your sports betting accounts. Don’t dump all of your allotted funds into one sportsbook. This should be an extra pool of money so that, if you lose it in its entirety, it’s not going to put you on the street or affect your day-to-day in any way. Responsible gaming is crucial to your experience.
  • Keep it simple to start by making straight bets (moneylines/totals), or bets on game/player props. Make sure you line shop for the best odds.
  • Use caution when betting local Ontario teams. It’s very likely that the operators know that they’re going to get a lot of action on the Toronto-based teams: the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Toronto Raptors, Toronto FC, Toronto Blue Jays. People naturally want to bet on the teams that they cheer for. Because of that, the sportsbooks may charge you a premium on the betting line.

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PROLINE (retail) and PROLINE + (online) have been the only legal sports betting platforms in Ontario prior to April 4. These government-run platforms being offered by OLG will still be available in Ontario once the market goes live. PROLINE has been improving its product in anticipation of the competition from private sportsbooks.

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Sportsbook partnerships

Many sportsbooks planning to launch in Ontario have been busy forming strategic partnerships with professional teams, players, and celebrities ahead of the April 4 launch:

Photo: Shutterstock


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