Ontario Online Opening Draws Near As Sports-Betting Standards Set

September 10, 2021
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Ontario’s gambling commission has published final standards for online sports betting and internet gaming and confirmed that operators will be able to start the application process to become regulated in the province as soon as Monday.

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Ontario’s gambling commission has published final standards for online sports betting and internet gaming and confirmed that operators will be able to start the application process to become regulated in the province as soon as Monday (September 13).

The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) on Thursday announced the release of updated standards for internet gambling, with its regulations established in July now incorporating sports and event betting, following the recent change in Canadian federal law to permit single-game wagering.

The AGCO published draft standards for sports and event wagering in July but said it had since revised some of those proposals based on feedback received from some 41 entities.

Among other changes, Ontario’s standards that were already set to limit the offering of bonuses and other inducements through advertising will now also ban operators from promoting the offer of a “free bet” or “risk-free bet” unless there truly is no risk of a customer losing his or her money.

In a statement on its website, the regulator said the restriction would “allow the AGCO to continue offering a balanced approach to regulation that allows operators to advertise their brand and attract customers, while upholding extensive responsible gambling safeguards.”

Unlike most U.S. states, Ontario will not be limiting its operators to a list or catalog of permitted bet types and events.

But operators can only offer wagers that meet a set of integrity criteria, including that any events, apart from novelty events, are subject to supervision by a governing body “which must, at minimum, prescribe final rules and enforce codes of conduct that include prohibitions on betting by insiders.”

Betting on minor sports leagues in Ontario will be prohibited, as will spread betting or wagers related to financial markets and any secondary or synthetic lottery products that enable betting on the outcome of a lottery drawing.

According to the standards, all sports-betting offerings should “help to prevent extended and continuous play,” although this should not be interpreted to preclude in-play wagering per the AGCO.

Similar to New Jersey and other US states, Ontario operators will have to report any suspicious wagering activity to an “independent integrity monitor.”

Such entities must not have “any perceived or real conflicts of interests in performing the independent integrity monitor role, including such as acting as an operator or as an oddsmaker.”

In line with the earlier draft standards, official league data is not required but operators must use “reputable and legitimate data source(s)” and be willing to disclose those sources to customers on request.

In announcing its final standards, the AGCO also said that both operators and gaming-related suppliers providing platforms and games to operators would be able to begin the process of registering from Monday via the regulator’s online application portal.

In the case of operators, registration with the AGCO is one of two steps to launch in Ontario’s regulated market, with sportsbooks and online casinos also required to sign a commercial contract with an independent AGCO subsidiary in conformity with Canadian federal law.

The start of the registration process follows the recent publication by the AGCO of application guides for both operators and suppliers.

Although the regulator had clearly signalled as much through earlier consultations on its eligibility criteria, the application guides confirm that companies currently active in Ontario on an offshore basis will not be prevented from registering.

However, operators and suppliers will have to cease any unregulated activities or affiliations in Ontario once they are registered and any companies that remain active in the province following the launch of the regulated market risk being found unsuitable should they apply in future.

The AGCO said it is looking to time the registration process with the commercial contracting activities of its iGaming Ontario subsidiary such that “the transition to the regulated igaming scheme is as seamless as possible — with the goal of having no 'blackout' period.”

Ontario will become the first Canadian province to permit private operators to lawfully offer online gambling in its jurisdiction, with regulated internet gambling to date limited to the offerings of provincial lottery corporations such as the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG), Loto-Quebec or British Columbia Lottery Corporation.

In Ontario, registered private operators will have to compete with the incumbent PlayOLG online casino platform, as well as OLG’s newly launched PROLINE+ online sportsbook.

Ontario is one of eight Canadian provinces where state-owned lotteries have launched full online sports betting since amendments to the federal Criminal Code took effect on August 27.

On Thursday, OLG said PROLINE+ had registered more than C$3m in handle in its first two weeks and “been getting a lot of attention from football fans who were eager to get in on the pre-season offerings” prior to the start of the new NFL season.

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