iGaming Ontario, a subsidiary of the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario, has confirmed that the launch date for its regulated igaming market will be for April 4.

From April 4, private gaming operators that have registered with the AGCO and have executed an operating agreement with iGaming Ontario can begin to offer its games to players within the region. 

With a fixed date now set, the latest edition of the CasinoBeats 100 Club has us delving deeper into Ontario as we asked our members of the potential of the market once live. 

We asked: What is the potential for the soon-to-be regulated Ontario market and how enticing could it be for operators to join?

With eyes firmly fixed on the regulated market, Shelley White, CEO, Responsible Gambling Council, expressed that Ontario is expected to be a “very attractive market for international operators”, due to its population – which is equivalent to the fifth largest state in the US. 

She stated: “While Ontario specific data isn’t available, it is estimated that Canadians spend upwards of $4bn every year on grey market single-event sports wagering. Knowing the size of this market and the potential for market growth makes it clear why this would be enticing for operators. 

“So, while there is significant revenue potential for the industry, there is also significant potential to raise the bar when it comes to responsible gambling. 

“Ontario is a leader when it comes to responsible gambling. There are robust standards in place, set by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario. Stakeholders across the province work collaboratively to ensure the standards are upheld and safeguards are in place to minimise risk, support a sustainable gambling industry and provide resources and support for those at risk. 

“A strong regulatory framework already exists for land-based gambling and this approach has been replicated for sports betting and igaming.

“We must take into consideration that online gambling and sports betting possess unique characteristics compared to other types of gambling. Accordingly, there are distinctive responsible gambling considerations for online gambling and sports betting that require leadership and innovative strategies, focused on sustainable play. 

“Our hope is that as gambling access is opened up, Ontario’s commitment to creating a culture of sustainable play will remain a focus for all stakeholders.”

Shelley White, CEO, Responsible Gambling Council.

“The fact that online gambling is easily accessible on multiple devices, 24/7, combined with the isolation factor and the opportunity to use alcohol and substances simultaneously increases the risk for problem gambling. 

“Integrating betting into the popular Canadian pastime of watching sports, many people don’t consider sports betting as gambling because watching sports is something that is ingrained into society. The body of evidence indicates that many sports bettors perceive their knowledge of and ability to predict the outcome of sporting events at a higher level than reality. This illusion of control can pose a greater risk to bettors if not kept in check. 

“Responsible gambling initiatives for sports betting and online gambling should include a robust set of marketing and advertising regulations that are evidence informed and tailored specifically for online gambling and sports betting. It will be equally important that consumer prevention programming remains a priority to provide information and resources to vulnerable populations like youth, young adults and priority populations who may be at a heightened risk for experiencing harm. 

“Our hope is that as gambling access is opened up, Ontario’s commitment to creating a culture of sustainable play will remain a focus for all stakeholders.  

“It will be important that operators entering the Ontario market are committed to and can demonstrate that they have the highest responsible gambling standards and practices in place to safeguard the public. The legalisation of single-event sports betting and expansion of online gambling is an opportunity for all stakeholders to reaffirm their commitment to responsible gambling. 

“By working collaboratively and having open channels of communication between operators, regulators, sports leagues and allied public health professionals, we can continue to champion the prevention of gambling harms and foster a culture of responsible gambling in Ontario.”

Sharing similar thoughts to White, Philip Parry, CEO at Iforium, believes that Ontario could prove to be “the biggest market to regulate in 2022”. 

“I believe the regulated opening of Ontario will entice multiple operators to enter, including those already established in North America as well as multiple European brands targeting Ontario for their first foray across the pond. 

“This should deliver a competitive market and provide a great choice of brands for players to enjoy in Ontario.”

Another one of our members, Fiona Hickey, head of sales at Push Gaming, stated that, alongside the Netherlands, the Ontario market is one she has heard partners “prioritise the most this year”. 

“Alongside the Netherlands, it is the market we are hearing partners prioritise the most this year…”

Fiona Hickey, head of sales at Push Gaming

She continued: “Canada has been an important market for a variety of key tier one and two operators for a number of years. With Ontario regulating, not only are existing operators in the country applying for licenses, and growing their presence, but also a number of others who are looking to enter and take a piece of this high potential regulated market. 

“Alongside the Netherlands, it is the market we are hearing partners prioritise the most this year, especially as regulated markets become a bigger focus for a large number of partners. A significant percentage of the overall revenues from Canada already come from this region, so it’s an exciting prospect for partners to enter this market in a regulated fashion and grow from there.”

Magdalena Podhorska-Okolow, chief commercial officer at Authentic Gaming, stated that with Ontario opening up, it now provides operators an opportunity to “finally enter to market correctly and in accordance with fresh gambling laws” catered for the online casino market. 

“Many operators have been treating Canada as a non regulated market targeting the country with .com licences as no local licences were available to date,” Authentic’s CCO noted. “This new regime will also force many operators to cease all other .com licensed Canadian activity since Ontario is said to be in the range of 40-50 per cent of activity for the country. 

“The market is also ripe and matured from an online perspective considering the Ontario Lottery Corporation offering an online casino offering for quite some time now, hence there is a good pool of players that will only grow now with the allowance of advertising of regulated gaming. 

“It’s a market with huge potential and the compliance requirements have not been a ‘reinvention of the wheel’, but are similar to other highly regulated markets globally which operators are accustomed to, making the go to market an easy decision to make.”

Echoing the thoughts of Podhorska-Okolow, Razvan Haiduc, CEO, Armadillo Studios, remarked that Ontario will be “among the most exciting markets” to open up in 2022, with new regulation set to bring with it “increased responsibility and stability” for the local industry. 

He concluded: “Business plans can be made and acted upon without the constant spectre of regulatory disruption. Players can be actively protected from predatory practices, while at the same time enjoying high quality entertainment in a controlled and respectful environment.

“Unlike some other regulations that came into force in 2021, Ontario seems to be acknowledging market realities while at the same time providing a proper safety net for at-risk gamblers. It also (at the time of this writing) doesn’t limit the number of operators that can apply for a licence, unlike the approach that is commonly taken in the US. 

“This route should ensure that the market grows into a vibrant, active and innovative environment, where operators can grow, and players can enjoy gambling responsibly.”

Launched to give a voice to the industry on a range of key issues, the CasinoBeats 100 Club tackles the tricky questions and shares members’ views across the CasinoBeats network. Have your say by joining the 100 Club.