Ontario's iGaming market will bring revenue into the province to evade the pandemic's funk: BLG

iGaming is the birth of a new sector and will drive many jobs: sports co-chair

Ontario's iGaming market will bring revenue into the province to evade the pandemic's funk: BLG
Cameron MacDonald is the national sports and gaming group co-chair at Borden Ladner Gervais LLP.

The Ontario government officially launched its online gaming market on Apr 4, including online casinos and e-sport betting sites. Cameron Macdonald, a partner and co-chair of the national sports and gaming law practice group at Borden Ladner Gervais LLP, says the new legal regime will boost capital market activity and consumer engagement.

He also says it will drive revenue into the province’s coffers to help it get out of the pandemic funk.

iGaming Ontario (IGO), a subsidiary of the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO), introduced standards for gaming operators. Beginning on Apr 4, private gaming operators registered with the AGCO and IGO can offer their games to players in Ontario.

It is the birth of a whole new sector and will drive a lot of jobs, MacDonald says. “For the first time in Canadian history, private companies can enter Ontario and a competitive gaming marketplace to offer similar services to Ontarians.”

He says it is a big financial win for the province and exciting for lawyers to help clients navigate the many laws and regulations. “Ontario has embraced innovation and change and opened up the province to a competitive marketplace, and it’s meaningful.”

Law Times previously reported that the Safe and Regulated Sports Betting Act (Bill C-218) passed in August and amended the criminal code. This bill allowed provinces to determine how to conduct single-event betting, the most popular sports betting form. Canadians spend $14 billion yearly on offshore betting.

MacDonald says the “history-making” move benefitted Crown companies like the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG), which began offering single-event sports betting. However, private companies like theScore, PointsBet Canada or BetMGM were prohibited from providing a similar service to Canadians.

“It’s no longer just Crown corporations,” he says. “Multiple companies are offering competing services legally now for the first time in Canada to Ontarians, which is great for driving consumer choice and engagement and does so in a regulated marketplace, protecting the consumers.”

“Until [last] Monday, if anybody was placing bets in sports or playing a casino game online in Canada that wasn’t through a land-based casino or provincial Crown Corporation, they were doing so illegally and didn’t even know it.”

Some land-based casinos are worried iGaming will impact demand at the casinos, hurt revenue for the province, and affect job growth. However, MacDonald disagrees and says iGaming is complementary to land-based casinos and will assist in growing the industry and supplying jobs. “It’s a very different user experience to gamble in a casino versus online, and people would like to continue to go to casinos.”

Play Canada, a platform that provides guidelines for legal, live, and online gambling in Canada, released a report stating they expect iGaming Ontario to create 1,295 new jobs. Macdonald says it “likened IGO to being the rising tide that will lift all ships in the gaming sector.”

MacDonald says since the online gaming market applies only to Ontario, companies interested in offering their services to Canadians can only do so in the province. “In the rest of the country, you need to partner up with the Crown corporation to offer your platform services.”

He hopes other provinces will launch iGaming services after observing Ontario’s success in diverting revenue to its coffers from offshore gaming companies.

“It should drive billions of dollars of additional revenue into the province.”

Companies looking to get enlisted must register through the AGCO portal, and there are compliance guides for assistance. MacDonald says businesses should seek legal counsel to navigate registration and ensure their platform will be compliant and approved by the AGCO and IGO.

“Certifications and testing will need to be done,” he says. “Control matrices will need to be certified by third parties to ensure that the system is doing what it needs to do from a regulatory compliance perspective.”

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