Ontario Expected To Lay Groundwork For Liberalised iGaming Industry

The Ontario government, the most populous province of Canada, is expected to step forward and lay the groundwork for a liberalised igaming industry, a move that is sure to have major repercussions for how Canada decides to regulate sports betting.

Publishing its provincial budget, the legislative assembly of Ontario will announce its conditions for the introduction of a controlled igaming marketplace, a topic that has risen in popularity following the pandemic of COVID-19 draining the funds of the province.

Premier Doug Ford, bearing the nickname of ‘Canada’s Donald Trump’ and winning a shock election victory in 2018, vowed that Ontario will copy New Jersey by being the first province to ‘‘establish a competitive market for legal gambling’.

The Progressive Conservatives of Ford and Ontario (Ontario Tories) argued that the limited offer of the Ontario Lottery & Gaming Corp (OLG) controlled province would no longer be able to meet the evolving North American sports betting environment following the federal revocation of PASPA laws by the US Supreme Courts.

In 2019, the Treasury Board of the province reported that Ontario residents spent approximately C$ 500 million wagering on unlicensed websites, an amount that Ford and the Ontario Tories claimed would be exacerbated by US liberalisation.

Canadian Gaming Association (CGA) Chief Executive Paul Burns, speaking to Bloomberg this week, thanked Ontario for taking the lead in getting ‘igaming out of the shadows’.

Burns highlighted the attractiveness of Ontario to international operators, adding that igaming, as part of its rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic, could become another ‘economic driver’ for the province.

The Ontario assembly emphasised that the proposed igaming system would not have any financial forecasts, instead opting to concentrate on establishing a timetable for its procedural legislation and industry licencing arrangements.

Frustrated by the slumber of Canada to amend its gambling laws and create a federal system for ‘single sports betting,’ all Canadian provinces will control how Ontario creates the first free igaming marketplace in Canada.

In the meantime, at the federal level, the CGA announced that since Canada’s 2019 election, it has made substantial progress in moving single sports betting on the political agenda, gaining cross-party support for the CGA’s new effort to legalise sports betting within the Great North.

The NBA, NHL, MLB, MLS Soccer and Canadian Football League leadership wrote to the government this summer stressing that to protect franchises and national customers, Canada needed to dramatically reform its sports betting laws.