Canadian Gaming Summit: Ontario igaming is a ‘ten-year overnight success’

iGaming Ontario's Martha Otton referred to Ontario igaming as a “ten-year overnight success" during her panel appearance at the 2022 Canadian Gaming Summit.
Image: Shutterstock

‘Canada – A world of new opportunities’ was the apt theme for 2022’s Canadian Gaming Summit, a message that proved particularly relevant during the event’s day two opening exchanges.

The Metro Toronto Convention Centre took in much of the enthusiasm of the little over nine-week period since its launch on April 4, as well as news of a potential go dark period for operators, actions to tackle the black market, moves to establish a common self-exclusion system, and much more.

As the event celebrated its silver anniversary, ahead of being taken over by SBC following this year’s iteration, delegates heard a variety of remarks during the opening discussion of the “ten-year overnight success,” as the province was referred to by Martha Otton, Executive Director of iGaming Ontario.

With Chuck Nervick, SVP of MediaEdge, and Jim Warren, Chair of the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation, detailing “a whole new realm of possibilities” and a “world of opportunities” opening up, Paul Burns, President and CEO of the Canadian Gaming Association, exuded pride at what’s been achieved following a “tremendous challenge” that has been endured during the past two years.

“They gave me a podium so I will use it,” Burns began, before continuing to state that “I look back on this last couple of years and I’m proud of the accomplishments and quality and quantity of work that we’ve been able to do.”

Burns added: “To effect real change in government takes determination, strength, maybe a bit of courage and leadership. 

“The honorable Doug Downey, Attorney General for the province of Ontario, led Ontario’s initiatives to create the first regulated open-licensed gaming market in Canada.

“With nearly 30 sites operational … it’s hard not to see effective real significant change for Ontario’s gaming industry gaming market.”

This brought the newly re-elected minister to the stage, who first elaborated on confidence for the market “as we start to grow and grow rapidly” following a “terrific and hugely successful launch”.

“I’m just thrilled for what we’ve accomplished in such a short period of time, and I can’t wait to see what you bring to our market so that we can be the gold standard in North America, if not beyond. I’m really excited about it,” Downey concluded.

Subsequently, this led into the opening panel session of the day, which saw Otton joined by Tom Mungham, CEO & Registrar of the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario, with Dave Forestell, Chair of iGaming Ontario, taking the moderating reins. 

“We want to make Ontario the single best online gaming market in the world,” Forestell proclaimed to get things rolling, with Otton noting that “I’ve never had such positive feedback on any initiatives that I’ve been involved with”.

The province saw 12 operators go live on launch day, a moment referred to as “a tremendous accomplishment” by Mungham, a figure which has now swelled to 16, with multiple brands a common theme. 150 operator and supplier applicants are also waiting in the wings, it was remarked.

“These volumes, and this was indicated a little earlier, has led Ontario to being identified as the most open and the most competitive igaming market in North America, something I think we should be very, very proud of in terms of achieving that public policy objective,” Mungham continued in advance of touching upon action being undertaken regarding the black market.

“Our work began on this well before launch, and it continues in earnest after so,” it was noted regarding the unregulated market and its impact on the regulated space. 

“A couple of examples are that we’ve set up accounts with well in excess of 200, unregulated market sites, principally to assess whether or not the suppliers are continuing to do business with these sites. One of the linchpins of our regulatory framework. 

“We’ve engaged those suppliers who are maintaining associations with those operators that are not registered or not in the process. 

“And in one example, one of those suppliers has a relationship with 50 sites, and they’re in the process of removing their association or compelling that operator to come in and make registration with us. 

“We’ve also set up accounts with registered sites and are doing what we would do on the floor of any casino, which is conduct our compliance activities, our inspections.”

This led to Otton, who disclosed the signing of two operating agreements since the conference began, noting that “we will be moving towards a common self-exclusion system,” as Mungham warned of an impending crackdown.

“All I can say about that is that within that three to six-month transition timeframe that we talked about, starting on April 4, that we will be giving an industry notice, we will be drawing a line in the sand, and we will be then moving into a regulated and unregulated space,” the AGCO CEO commented.

“If you’re in the queue, or if you’re thinking about coming in and you won’t be ready by that time then you may face a period where you will have to go dark and you will not be able to operate in the province. I know that is meaningful to you because your customers may choose to go elsewhere.”

As Forestell proclaimed that Ontario could become something of a test bed for fresh innovative products moving forward due to the region’s diverse population, the session drew to a close with Otton echoing remarks heard throughout.

“I think Ontario has the opportunity to be, as you’re saying, not just the first of its kind in Canada, which we are, but also a launching pad for North America into the US as well,” it was said.