How Ontario transforms its online gambling scene

Since the Ontario government announced that it would open the online gaming market on April 4, 2022, legal gambling activity among Ontario’s 15.6 million residents has increased. This move has transformed Ontario’s gambling scene and spurred a flurry of activity in the Canadian gaming industry as a whole.

In March 2023, an Ipsos survey revealed that 85.3% of participants in an online gambling survey in Ontario during the previous three months gambled on regulated websites.

Compared to the estimated 70% of online gambling that took place on unregulated websites before the market’s introduction, this is a substantial shift.

Ontario’s gambling history

Online gambling isn’t a recent phenomenon in the country. According to Paul Burns, the president of the Canadian Gaming Association, Canadians have been engaging in online gambling for over two decades.

However, since single-game gambling had been illegal in Canada since the 1960s, many Canadians turned to grey-market sites for their bets. These platforms offered minimal consumer protection, leading many to seek alternatives due to the lack of legal options.

After years of debate and stalled legislative efforts, the federal government finally legalized single-game sports gambling in June 2021. This move prompted the Ontario government to open up the market to private companies while aiming to eliminate the unregulated grey market.

The move to legalize single-game gambling also allowed private companies to enter the Ontario market. iGaming Ontario, a subsidiary of the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO), was created to oversee the process. The organization ensures compliance with regulations and responsible gambling practices.

The introduction of private companies into Ontario’s gaming market has yielded substantial economic benefits for the province.

Currently, there is an increase in gambling advertisements across Canada, with numerous companies, both domestic and international, competing for customers in the nation’s largest province.

Online slots are popular in Ontario, with games like Mega Moolah and Starburst drawing in players with massive jackpots. Notably, online slots boast higher return-to-player percentages compared to traditional land-based machines, averaging between 94% and 97%. Live RTP’s breakthrough features have also attracted more players.

Card games like blackjack, poker, and baccarat are also preferred due to their simplicity.

Economic benefits

The decision to open up the gaming market in Ontario has yielded significant returns for the province. Quarterly reports from iGaming Ontario indicate a substantial increase in online gambling activity, with $14.2 billion in bets on various casino games and sports events.

The province receives a portion of the profits from gaming operations, contributing to its revenue stream.

Furthermore, the expanding online gaming market has generated economic benefits beyond revenue generation. A study conducted by Deloitte estimated that the opening of the gaming market in Ontario created thousands of full-time jobs and contributed billions to the province’s gross domestic product.

Concerns, solutions

Despite the successes of the online gaming market in Ontario, concerns remain regarding problem gambling and match-fixing.

The AGCO has fined operators for various infractions. This includes temporarily banning UFC events in December 2022, fining Apollo Entertainment $100,000 for violating gambling standards, and fining Pointsbet Canada $150,000 for several alleged violations.

According to the organization, there will be efforts to address these concerns, including stricter regulations and enhanced player protection measures.

Furthermore, iGaming Ontario sought to refine its approach to regulating casinos. For example, in February, the organization banned athletes and celebrities from appearing in commercials promoting online gambling in Ontario. The changes were part of the organization’s efforts to protect children and youth who are susceptible to such advertising.

Ontario’s experience regulating the online gaming market could be a potential model for other Canadian provinces. While the province remains the only one that allows private operators to offer legal gaming, discussions are underway in other provinces, such as Alberta, to explore similar regulatory changes.