The new, competitive internet gaming market in Ontario is in good shape. The market seems to be holding its own since its 4 April launch. But as expected, there are some updates from the AGCO. Perhaps not expected, the AGCO issued fines to two sites in the new market for rule infractions. Despite those changes and missteps by operators, there are even more companies that want a piece of the pie. And they have their forks ready.
There were years of preparations. It started with an idea, developed into a law, and transformed into an entirely new marketplace for Ontario gamblers.
All of that planning led to the 4 April launch. The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) and its subsidiary iGaming Ontario worked to award licenses ahead of said launch. On April 4, twelve operators virtually opened 17 igaming sites for players located in Ontario.
While land-based casinos still wondered if the new market would hurt their business – despite all evidence from other markets to the contrary – participants in the market looked to stand out from their competitors. More companies opened their sites in the weeks that followed.
New Market Participants
According to the iGaming Ontario website, this is a list of the igaming options for players in the province as of 4 May:
- 888casino, 888poker, 888sport (VHL Ontario)
- Bet365 (Hillside ENC)
- on.BetMGM, poker.on.BetMGM, sports.on.BetMGM (BetMGM Canada)
- BetRivers (Rush Street Interactive Canada)
- Caesars Sportsbook (American Wagering)
- Coolbet (Coolbear Ontario)
- FanDuel (FanDuel Canada)
- LeoVegas, RoyalPanda (LeoVegas Gaming)
- PartyCasino, PartyPoker, PartySports, bwin (ElectraWorks Maple)
- PointsBet (Pointsbet Canada Operations 1)
- Rivalry (Rivalry Ontario)
- theScore (Score Digital Sports Ventures)
- Unibet (Unibet ON)
Some of the operators that have publicized their intentions to launch in the new market are DraftKings, BetWay, Bet99, and WSOP (World Series of Poker).
The market is barely one month old, but there are already some numbers to show its progress. Neither the AGCO or iGaming Ontario released any figures or statistics yet, but there are some markers available.
According to CBC, Barclays Equity Research reported that theScore Bet and bet365 showed the most app downloads in the first 10 days. They had 24% of all downloads in that period, with FanDuel showing 20% and BetMGM at 11%.
On the other hand, Morgan Stanley put theScore Bet at 35% of the market, with bet365 at 27%, FanDuel at 16%, and BetMGM at 9%. That report showed theScore Bet peaking at 65% on the very first day but averages 18% one month later.
Less than one month from the launch of iGaming Ontario, the AGCO already reported two regulatory infractions. They pertain to the advertising and marketing portion of the Registrar’s Standards for Internet Gaming.
Specifically, the operators violated two standards:
- Standard 2.04: Marketing, including advertising and promotions, shall be truthful, shall not mislead players or misrepresent products.
- Standard 2.05: Advertising and marketing materials that communicate gambling inducements, bonuses and credits are prohibited, except on an operator’s gaming site and through direct advertising and marketing, after receiving active player consent.
AGCO CEO and Registrar said, “The AGCO holds all registered operators to high standards of responsible gambling, player protection and game integrity, and monitors their activities to ensure they are meeting their obligations under Ontario’s Gaming Control Act and the Standards.”
PointsBet Canada showed two violations to Standard 2.05 only. From 4-21 April, PointsBet advertised with an inducement to play on its site for free. Posters appeared on GO trains and in multiple products. From 4-17 April, the AGCO cited two specific posters at GO train stations with inducements to play for free.
BetMGM Canada violated both of the aforementioned standards.
Pertaining to Standard 2.04, BetMGM tweeted on 10 April, “The more money you put in per bet, the higher your chance is of winning.”
As for Standard 2.05, there were three violations, all on Twitter. BetMGM Canada tweeted on 4 April and 11 April about the $250K Launch Party promotion, including a contest in which the winner would receive a $100K casino bonus. Another tweet on 4, 6, and 8 April advertised a Bellagio promotion for a $10 casino bonus for any $25 bet. And finally, the company tweeted twice on 8 April about the Jimi Hendrix Free Spin Friday promotion, offering the chance to win 100 free spins for following the BetMGM Canada Twitter account.
Changes to Land-Based Gaming
As one might guess, Ontario’s entire gaming industry operates under a set of standards, the Registrar’s Standards for Gaming, a broader set that the aforementioned. It actually serves as the larger umbrella under which the igaming market, including OLG, operates.
One change to the larger Standards was to remove the internet gaming section, as the new igaming subsection addresses all pertinent standards.
The second change pertained to pandemic reopening plans, which the AGCO removed.
Most importantly, though, the AGCO updated the overall standards to mimic the igaming section. This pertained to the advertising of inducements for sports and events betting. In an effort to line up the land-based and internet gaming standards, the AGCO updated these three sections:
- No public advertising of inducements, bonuses or credits for sport and event betting products except on a casino operator’s website, electronic channel, and at all venues owned and operated by the operator.
- Advertising of said inducements is allowed through direct messaging after receiving active player consent.
- Advertisements must not be marketed as free or risk-free unless they are truly free or risk-free.
These standards, according to the AGCO, help regulate advertising and promotional activity in the gambling environment.