The Ontario government officially launched its online gaming market on Apr 4, 2022, to include sportsbooks and online casinos. This is a significant step for both the industry and the province: with an estimated GGY of 600 million and a population of 14+ million, it heralds the opening of a new gambling landscape that has very quickly become one of the world’s hottest igaming prospects.
In this special report, Delasport takes a look at the numbers, what the legislation entails and what Ontarians are most likely to bet on with their newfound gambling freedom.
Current state of play
In 2021, the online gambling landscape in Canada underwent a transformation with the passing of bill C-218 by the government, changing the laws that prevented online gambling. Following the bill, the Canadian gaming industry was allowed to work with provincial partners to offer single-event wagering to sports betting fans. Then, on April 4, 2022, Ontario – home to 40% of Canada’s population – launched a legal iGaming market. Since that day, 13 operators have gone live, with 27 gaming operators waiting in the wings, having already registered with the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO).
The market size is estimated at 800 million CA$ GGY (about 600m Euro) and according to the Auditor General of Ontario, the provincial government anticipates iGaming Ontario to earn a net profit of 18 million CA$ for the 2022-23 fiscal year. Following that, $26 million in net income is expected in 2023-24 and $31 million in 2024-25, for a total of $75 million over three years.
Ontario is likely to be the third biggest regulated online market in North America by 2026, after the more mature U.S. markets of New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
Until April 2022, the Ontario market was considered “Gray”, with offshore operators taking bets remotely. The AGCO (Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario) took a different approach to setting up a local regulated market in comparison with other jurisdictions that have recently opened their own. Ontario implemented a transition period allowing offshore operators to apply for a new license whilst setting a relatively low tax rate – which they refer to as revenue share.
As of April 4, 2022, online gaming can now be offered in Ontario by licensed operators who have registered with the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO), as well as having entered into an Operating Agreement with a newly launched subsidiary of the AGCO, iGaming Ontario (iGO).
The AGCO is the provincial government organization in charge of gambling regulation in Ontario. With the introduction of iGO, there are now two Crown corporations responsible for conducting and regulating iGaming in Ontario, both of which are regulated by the AGCO.
- The Ontario Lottery and Gambling Organization (“OLG”) is a Crown corporation that oversees online gaming in Ontario. The OLG also runs lottery at land-based gaming establishments.
- The iGO, was launched as a subsidiary of the AGCO, and manages iGaming when provided through private operators. It does not conduct OLG affairs and is not involved with any land-based gaming sites.
An open license model
With its competitive and ethical strategy for promoting online gambling in Ontario, the authorities are clearly paying close attention to the economic potential. Currently, the number of online gambling operators authorized to register with the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario is unrestricted under Ontario’s open licensing model (AGCO).
This is the first model of its sort in North America as states like New York and Michigan have a “tethered” approach, in which each online sportsbook must work with a land-based casino. This open-ended license scheme, which should attract and register more online gambling businesses than other comparable North American countries, is critical to the development of Ontario’s new iGaming sector.
Each brand (URL) needs to have its own B2C license, bank account, and a security deposit equal to the lower of $5M CAD or the last 12 months’ GGR (first year based on the first 2 months of GGR (pro-rated).
The license fee is CAD 100,000 (about EUR 70k) and it is per year per site/brand.
A European approach
VIXIO GamblingCompliance, the independent provider of iGaming business intelligence, has highlighted that there are various characteristics of Ontario’s regulatory model that mirror those of European jurisdictions, rather than those of the United States.
As well as having an unrestricted number of licenses and similar advertising restrictions to those in Europe, the AGCO also has similar restrictions on the design of online casinos as those seen in the UK, focusing on responsible gaming and protection.
The authorities have established the following advertising limits for all new sports betting and iGaming operators entering the Ontario market.
- Minors, self-excluded individuals, and high-risk players should not be targeted.
- All advertising must incorporate a responsible gaming message, and the iGO logo must appear on all operator websites, advertising platforms, and social media channels.
- Prohibition of targeted public advertising and algorithm-based ads.
- Operators will not be able to advertise bonuses through public advertising or social media, and players will need to provide their approval to receive deposits, sign-up, or information about bonus offers.
- Currently there are no rules limiting the amount of sports betting advertising. Broadcasters will ultimately decide how many gambling ads are aired, although this is likely to be reviewed once the market matures.
From an advertisement perspective, restrictions for the Ontario market are more similar to those of European markets than of US ones.
Ice hockey is, of course, the marquee sport in the country, but most American sports are also closely followed by Ontarians due to around 90% of the population living within 100 miles of the US border. Most Ontarians have cable access to American broadcast networks, with all major American athletic events, including college football and basketball, being aired in the province. As such, sportsbooks will be featuring a robust mix of US and Canadian sports.
NFL games have been broadcast on Canadian television for decades, and most Canadian sports fans have a preferred American club in addition to Canadian Football League teams. NBA basketball is popular, with the Toronto Raptors being a fan favorite – particularly after their 2019 NBA Championship.
Other sports which will be seeing a lot of action in Canadian sportsbooks will be baseball, lacrosse, golf, boxing, and horse racing.
A survey by OntarioBets.com which specializes in research and review of sportsbooks and online casinos found that 35 per cent of provincial residents say they make sportsbooks wagers at least once a week.
Popular casino games
Due to many Canadians playing in land-based casinos, the traditional games seen in those establishments are likely to be the most popular in online casinos. Just like most other countries, slots lead the way in popularity in Canada, with table games such as Blackjack and Roulette seeing a lot of action. The Ontarian taste is similar to that of European players when it comes to video slots, as after all, the Ontarians did play casino games online before with European iGaming operators.
Ontario is without a doubt one of the hottest prospects in the global iGaming market. As more and more operators seek to join in the fray of such strong opportunity, they will be tested as they attempt to enter the newly regulated and highly competitive landscape. And, after the Ontario buzz settles down, the question of how other provinces will follow suit remains.