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What does Ontario want? A Privatised Online Casino Sector! When does it want it? Now!

  • Published date14 November 2020

Canada’s biggest province may soon see significant expansion in its iGaming sector as proposed new legislation by local government would allow for the privatisation of online casinos in Ontario. The legalisation of single-event sports betting is also on the table.

The local government presented its 2020-21 budget to parliament earlier in the month, painting a grim picture of the state of the province’s finances. Major contributing factors included the flagging fortunes of the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) and the persistent global health crisis.

The OLG revealed that, for the current budget year, it would likely only be able to contribute CA$200 million to the province’s coffers, in stark contrast to its 2019-20 financial contribution of CA$2.3 billion.

News of the OLG’s falling revenue was largely unsurprising, considering the national closures of land-based casinos and gaming venues. The organisation recently applied for CA$500 million in government financial assistance in a desperate attempt to ‘keep the lights on.’

AGCO oversight

The local government intends to introduce the necessary legislation to grant the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) the power required to manage online casinos at a provincial level. If the proposed legislation is approved, the AGCO will also assume the role of an iGaming regulator that will oversee licensing processes, safe gambling guidelines, and compliance-focused processes, among others.

Passing the proposed legislation would cause the OLG to lose its current monopoly status in the online casino industry. The shift to privatisation will allow more operators to gain licences to service the local market. Local government expects the privatised model to boost taxable income for Ontario’s provincial reserves.

Sports Betting on standby

The proposed online casino budget includes a series of provisions intended to facilitate a legalised sports betting market. Sports betting currently exists under the constraints of federal governance, and parlay bets are the only sports wagers legally allowed.

MP Kevin Waugh
MP Kevin Waugh

A litany of delays and opposing motions have vanquished previous efforts for full legalisation of betting on sports. Now, legislation that includes wagers placed on single events has been re-tabled by MP Kevin Waugh, the bill’s federal sponsor.

Some members of parliament have fired back with concerns regarding some of the draft bill’s specific provisions. Still, a significantly larger number have lent their support to the C-218 draft bill, backing the intention to create a legal and safe environment that will allow for the effective assistance of individuals experiencing problem gambling behaviour. In the same breath, the legislation seeks to avoid negatively impacting local sports, particularly the province’s horseracing industry that is a major source of employment.

Only The Beginning

The bill is likely to be reviewed next in late January/early February 2021, followed by a vote to determine whether the bill should be graduated for review by the Justice committee before the final step of approval before the Senate.

If Ontario achieves the privatisation of online casinos and the legalisation of sports betting, more provinces are likely to follow the trend with a national privatised, and regulated online gaming industry being the main goal.