Channelisation is key for the success of any locally regulated market and to be successful, licensed operators must be given the right framework to operate in a competitive way.

Those are the thoughts of Amanda Brewer, Country Manager Canada at Kindred Group, who expressed that operators within Ontario would “do well” to learn from the US markets and self-regulate their spend and promotional activities for profitability. 

Speaking a few months after the launch of the Ontario igaming market on April 4, Brewer delved into the province’s transitioning period of licensing, what the market has experienced – and learned – post-launch, challenges that have appeared, looking into home market advantage and the future of Ontario. 

CasinoBeats: Why is Ontario so unique when compared to other model jurisdictions?

Amanda Brewer: I couldn’t be prouder of Ontario for launching North America’s most open igaming market. With approximately 40 per cent of Canada’s economy and 37 per cent of the national GDP, Ontario offers an open licence model (no tethering) and the ability for operators to provide both sports betting and igaming, including DFS and esports.  

The province is home to a strong digital technology sector, a highly skilled and multilingual workforce, strong capital markets, and a competitive tax climate – all key measures that make Ontario an attractive location.

CB: Since the launch in April, what have you learned about the market?

AB: There is room for healthy competition, and most of the leading operators in the world have already launched in the market. While the volume of advertising has risen noticeably, it feels responsible.  

Offering bonuses or inducements anywhere but an operator’s landing page or through direct customer marketing is prohibited, which means you won’t be driving downtown Toronto or Ottawa and see billboards with bonus or sign up offers. 

I think this has helped launch the market in Ontario more smoothly.

CB: A transitioning period of licensing is currently tolerated through the application process. But does this just transition from grey to black and what damage, if any, does this cause?

AB: The short answer is you only have two options in Ontario: apply and be granted a licence or exit out of the market. The “transition” period won’t last much longer. 

However, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario has an open application process, so operators (non-grey market ones) can apply at any point in time.

While you are correct in saying that the former grey market is now a black one, the AGCO has indicated a willingness to work with applicants to bring them into compliance. Operators pay a licensing fee to initiate the application, so there’s incentive to see the process through to completion. 

It stands to reason that there will be enforcement actions taken for suppliers who continue to service black market (unlicensed) operators.

CB: Following on from the above, what challenges does this cause from a customer retention standpoint?

AB: Kindred will continue to take a disciplined approach and not engage in any unsustainable push, be that marketing or bonusing. 

Ontario is one of the more competitive markets in North America, and customers will be trying out different apps to find out what works best for them. We know how important it is to build relationships with our customers and provide them with an exciting and robust product offering that uses the latest game features and functionality, both on the casino and the sports betting sides. 

When we enter a market, it is for the long term, and our focus is on ensuring we operate in a responsible and sustainable manner and make our customers as happy as possible.

CB: Due to the nature of the market does home market advantage count for anything?

AB: Operating in Canada always requires a different approach. This is underscored by the fact that so many operators, like Kindred, have hired locally to be able to tap into the uniqueness of this market. 

Home market advantage is achieved by having employees located in Ontario who understand what resonates with customers and who can keep an eye on what is going on in the market. I don’t know how that can be achieved from far away. 

Kindred prides itself on providing a hyper localised experience for its customers, whether they be in Ontario, Pennsylvania, the UK, or France.

CB: What has surprised you about the Ontario market that wasn’t forecasted?

AB: Truthfully, nothing yet. It’s a new market and I expected some hiccups. My hope is that as the market grows and matures, we will be able to achieve refinements in some of the AGCO’s and iGaming Ontario’s standards to help operators run their businesses more efficiently. 

CB: Are the predictions made pre-launch coming true or are we seeing a different narrative?

AB: The prediction made pre-launch was that Ontario would become one of the most important markets in the world because of its open licensing and robust product mix for online casinos and sports. 

Given the number of licensees already in the market, which include some of the biggest operators in the world, this should be seen as confirmation. 

The hope is that Ontario’s market will be large enough that operators of different shapes and sizes can succeed.

CB: What does the future hold now for Ontario? 

AB: Channelisation is key for the success of any locally regulated market and to be successful, licensed operators must be given the right framework to operate in a competitive way. 

Operators in Ontario would do well to learn from US markets and self-regulate their spend and promotional activities to have a better-defined path to profitability. Kindred wants to be in Ontario for the long-term and help build a sustainable industry. 

This is not a race to the finish line – we’re at the beginning of a long journey.