Ontario opens legal online gambling market

| By Robert Fletcher
The Canadian province of Ontario today (4 April) officially launched its legal and regulated online gambling market.

The opening follows almost three years of work after the provincial government revealed plans to end the lottery’s online gambling monopoly in April 2019. The government in 2020 introduced legislation to allow for a licensing regime.

In September of last year, the province published its final standards for online betting and gaming. The rules for online gaming include a ban on autoplay and a minimum spin speed of 2.5 seconds for slots.

iGaming Ontario, the subsidiary of Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO), will have responsibility for regulating the new market, as well as issuing licences to operators and suppliers.

Ahead of the market opening, iGaming Ontario handed out a series of licences, with a host of major brands approved to operate in the province.

PointsBet, theScore, RivalryRush Street InteractiveBet365, FanDuel and 888 all secured licences to offer online gambling in Ontario, while suppliers such as Inspired EntertainmentPlay’n Go and High 5 Games have also been approved to work with licenced operators.

In the lead up to the market opening, the AGCO warned operators in the process of securing a licence to cease activities or risk their application failing. 

In a guide published “to assist internet gaming operators in applying for registration”, the AGCO set out plans to take “strong action to address any remaining unregulated Ontario market activity in partnership with law enforcement”.

All businesses that applied for registration before the 4 April launch were required to cease operations in Ontario from the moment their registration was approved by AGCO.

Among the operators to go live on opening day in Ontario was PointsBet, which, through its PointsBet Canada subsidiary, rolled out igaming and online sportsbook operations.

“Just moments after 12:00am local time this morning, PointsBet Canada became one of the first private sportsbooks to take a legal wager,” PointsBet Canada chief executive Scott Vanderwel said.

“On behalf of the entire PointsBet Canada team, I’d like to share how thrilled we are to see the province’s sports wagering market officially open.”

Prior to the opening, Flutter Entertainment-owned FanDuel Group said it would also begin taking bets from today, having secured a licence to offer both sports betting and igaming in Ontario.

“We’re so thrilled to open our Canadian office and bring FanDuel’s world-class Sportsbook and Casino to Canada’s passionate sports fans,” FanDuel chief executive Amy Howe said. “This is a huge moment for the industry and we look forward to providing Canadians with entertaining and responsible sports experiences.”

Meanwhile, content provider High 5 Games confirmed its titles were live with a number of operators on day one of legal igaming in Ontario.

“Our games have been on the floor of many Canadian land-based casinos for decades, and now players in Ontario can play them online at responsible gaming sites they know and trust,” High 5 Games chief executive Tony Singer said.

“The potential for growth in Canada is huge, and we look forward to growing our presence in Ontario and beyond.”

Affiliate business the Gambling.com Group also said it would begin providing marketing services for licensed online sports betting and igaming operators in Ontario from today.

In anticipation of the launch, the group in November 2021 launched OntarioBets.com, a free-to-use site that allows players in the province to compare legal online sportsbooks and casinos.

“The launch of regulated online sports betting and igaming is a major milestone and achievement for Ontario’s gaming industry,” Gambling.com Group chief executive Charles Gillespie said. 

“The province is taking the right approach by keeping the barriers to entry low and allowing a variety of operators to enter the market. This will foster competition and ultimately benefit consumers as the operators with the best products rise to the top. Gambling.com Group is well positioned to help operators and customers succeed in this new and exciting market.”

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