Ontario iGaming Brings More Operators and Raised Concerns

Ontario iGaming Brings More Operators and Raised Concerns

Nearly two months after Ontario launched its new competitive internet gaming market, the new entity seems to be moving along smoothly. Lawmakers are looking forward to the profits, which the Ontario Auditor General just recently revealed could be $75M in the first three years.

More online gaming operators continue to obtain igaming licenses and launch new Ontario online casinos. But complaints and distrust still boil under the surface for people who opposed the market before it launched and continue to push for change.

New Options for Ontarians

When we last checked in with the sites that had launched nearly one month ago, the list consisted of:

  • 888casino, 888poker, 888sport (VHL Ontario)
  • Bet365 (Hillside ENC)
  • 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)

That list has since grown. The newest launches are:

  • NorthStar Bets (NorthStar Gaming)
  • DraftKings casino, DraftKings sportsbook (Crown DK CAN)

NorthStar took pride in its Ontario market launch, noting that the company is based in Ontario. It talked about the launch campaign called That’s a Win, which educates players about the sportsbetting platform. The goal is to become a fan favorite with a catchy ad campaign and give them a chance to see what NorthStar has to offer.

DraftKings, on the other hand, took a more subdued approach to revealing its launch. In fact, it didn’t issue a press release until the site had been operational for a few days. The company announced that it will offer more than sportsbetting, as the online casino offers both table games and online slots.

Chairman, CEO, and cofounder Jason Robins called the launch a significant milestone for DraftKings. “We look forward to providing the passionate fanbase in Ontario with the most entertaining and responsible gaming experience possible,” he said.

DraftKings also specifically emphasized the company’s focus on responsible gaming, equity, and service.

MSIFN Still Opposed

This may sound familiar. The Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation (MSIFN) is not happy with iGaming Ontario.

This sounds familiar because Chief Kelly LaRocca said the same thing in January. The concern then was that MSIFN was left out of the entire process. Then, LaRocca said the impending launch of iGaming Ontario was a “slap in the face of First Nations and reduces their promises of reconciliation to a joke.”

LaRocca recently spoke to Durhum Region…about the same topic. The main issue was that iGaming Ontario launched too quickly and did not consult with First Nations. LaRocca said, “I think that they’re rolling out the program too fast without proper data to support their model. They’ve given us pretty scant details around their model and around their belief that this will not deleteriously impact the land-based gaming facilities in the province, not to mention the concerns around responsible gaming and public health and safety.”

(US igaming markets that have adopted much the same type of system for online gaming have reported consistently that their success takes nothing away from their live casino counterparts. In fact, online and live gambling complement each other.)

Still Preparing a Lawsuit?

Earlier this year, MSIFN told the media that it planned to sue the Ford government for violating their constitutional rights, which require consultation with Indigenous leaders in matters such as gaming. LaRocca said that the government “recklessly ignored” their concerns. Not only did the government not them proper deference, they violated their rights.

The lawsuit failed to materialize, but LaRocca asserted to The Star that this is still in the works.

MSIFN has given the government three years to meet with them in good faith. And Scugog councillors passed a resolution in January 2022 demanding that the Ford government provide some level of certainty that Ontario’s new igaming market will not negatively impact their land-based gambling operations.

One of the primary concerns is the lack of transparency from Ontario iGaming and, more importantly, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO). MSIFN wants someone to address their concerns.

Sports Betting Ads Abound

It appears that the operators in the new iGaming Ontario market have spared no expense when it comes to advertising their products. With a limited population available for a significant – and still growing – number of operators – companies need to stand out.

CBC reports that the billboards are abundant along major Ontario roads and highways. There are an increasing number of advertisements on buses and anywhere signage can appear. Of course, there are also the online ads in the form of short and long commercials with incentives to gamble and famous faces discussing the excitement of sports betting.

Experts in the field of responsible gambling and in the prevention of gambling harm fear that the saturation of the market will do more harm. They not only fear for the problem gambling that may arise at online casinos in Ontario. Further, they fear that people outside of Ontario will see the ads and, since they cannot access the safe iGaming Ontario environment, will turn to offshore sites.

While there is no data yet in Ontario to back up these concerns, there is also no data to ensure Ontarians that gambling operators really understand their impact yet.



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