Ontario Sports Betting Open Market Likely Delayed Until After Super Bowl

Ontario Sports Betting Open Market Likely Delayed Until After Super Bowl
By Mark Keast

Paul Burns, President and CEO of the Canadian Gaming Association, was busier than most folks at the SBC Summit North America, the big sports betting and iGaming event, held last week in New Jersey.

Small wonder, since the silence from the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario people on the opening of the rest of the Ontario sports betting market up to regulated sports betting has been deafening. Many thought the market would be open by now. The only legal way to bet on sports currently in Ontario is via the OLG’s PROLINE+ platform.

Ontario is projected to one of the larger betting markets in North America once fully open and competitive.

But now it is anyone’s guess when that will happen.

A few weeks back, OntarioBets.com was speaking to an executive with one of the private operators applying for a license in Ontario and that person said they don’t expect a go-live date before the Super Bowl, on Feb. 13.

Sports Betting Canada Timetable

That’s the message in some of the latest industry media reporting as well. If an open, competitive industry isn’t live by the Super Bowl, which generates an obscene amount of betting in the U.S. market every year, then what’s the hurry? The AGCO then should really take its time, and get it right, when it comes to regulation.

“In terms of the (go live) date, we haven’t heard anything, other than they are trying to settle it soon,” Burns told OntarioBets.com. “The efforts between the AGCO and iGaming Ontario (which will conduct and manage an open, competitive market) is to be ready. They want to give the government certainty and the industry certainty.

They want to make sure that the date they announce will be the date. They don’t want false starts, that’s not healthy for companies or for them.

“I agree, I don’t think it will be for the Super Bowl. But I think they are being prudent. The industry was saying the Super Bowl would have been great, but don’t miss it though. Don’t plan for it then a week out say we have to miss it, since companies are making lots of investments.”

There is a lot of interest in the market, Burns added, and “people are craving information.” The challenge for a lot of these companies is that there are other markets opening up in the States. So the question is, where do they put their corporate priorities as Ontario is delayed?

“These are global businesses with multiple priorities,” Burns said. “So they are trying to balance everything.”

Tax Split A Crucial Issue

There are tax split considerations (though Burns said those who have submitted applications and who are dealing with iGaming Ontario now have been given that information, after signing non disclosure agreements), and advertising restrictions. Plus, these companies are competing against offshore books.

“There is a mix of bringing companies in from the current grey market and that will become a black market the day the market opens,” he said. “They want to make sure those companies have a transition plan and can come in. And they want to make sure new entrants have all the advantages of being able to enter the market as soon as it opens. There has been a lot of balancing interests and they have a lot of work to do still.”

Comments last week by Ontario Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk detailed here that the province could face challenges around the legal framework for sports betting in the province raised more concerns about delays.

“That was disappointing,” Burns said. “The government’s policy objective in this is to enhance consumer protection and oversight, and I think they’ve got it right. I don’t think there is any reason for concern. That was the AG’s opinion, but she needs to understand that for the government to be in these spaces they need to have the flexibility to change direction and work in new interpretations at the same time. What the government is trying to do is bring people into a regulated market from a non-regulated market. The one thing she discounted is that the AGCO has a very robust regulatory environment.”



Mark Keast has recently covered the sports betting industry in Canada for The Parleh, and is a long-time sportswriter and editor, most notably with the Toronto Sun.

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