Pragmatism in Ontario Online Casino and Sports Betting Wins Praise

Pragmatism in Ontario Online Casino and Sports Betting Wins Praise
By Bill Ordine
Fact Checked by Jim Tomlin

LAS VEGAS — Pragmatism isn’t necessarily the most common concept associated with gambling. However, the emerging online Ontario sportsbooks are a product of just that — practical, common-sense policy.

At the Global Gaming Expo, the annual four-day conference and trade show at the Venetian Expo in Las Vegas, a panel of experts discussing key developments in Canada’s iGaming scene Wednesday emphasized the province’s pragmatic approach.

Martha Otton, executive director of iGaming Ontario, the organization that essentially manages the Ontario online casino market, outlined the objectives that helped frame the iGaming products that launched in early April.

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Ontario Online Casinos Achieving Objectives

Those objectives were: Bring what had been gray-market gambling operators into a regulated market without penalty as long as they did so by Oct. 31; leverage the expertise of established gambling operators; and of course capture revenue for the government.

Otton used the opportunity of the panel discussion to report the most recent financial and participation figures from the industry involving Ontario betting apps.

For the second quarter that iGaming has been operating in the province (in the third quarter of 2022, July 1-Sept. 30), bettors made $6.04 billion Canadian (about $4.4 billion U.S. at the current exchange rate) in total wagers. That generated total gaming revenue of $267 million Canadian (about $194 million U.S). There were 24 operators (now 25) with 42 websites. Also, there were 628,000 active player accounts with an average monthly spend of $142 per account.

Compared to the first quarter of the province’s iGaming operations (April to June), there was a 48% increase in total wagers, a 65% increase in revenue, a jump of about 28% in active accounts, and an increase of 26% in average monthly spend. 

As for future operators, Otton said there were about 40 more in the pipeline, which would bring the total to perhaps 50 to 60.

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Rush Street Interactive Executive Praises Ontario iGaming Approach

Rush Street Interactive’s managing director for Canada, Bruce Caughill, was on the G2E panel and praised the province’s approach.

“The numbers show the signs of demand for products like ours and others … it’s the early days but it’s very promising,” Caughill said.

Danielle Bush, an attorney recognized for her expertise in online gaming, talked about some of the moves that helped attract gaming operators into the Ontario casino apps market.

One was a relatively reasonable tax rate of 20%. There was some in government who pushed back on the figure, but Bush said “that was the magic number.”

Also important was that online licensing was not tethered to land-based casinos (there aren’t very many in the province) and there was no cap on licenses.

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Political Will Key in Ontario and Other Provinces

Summarizing the overarching point being made about Ontario’s approach, Bush noted, “There are few jurisdictions that can be as pragmatic.”

Caughill concurred. “Not everyone was happy,” the Rush Street executive said, “but that was pragmatic.”

Concerning the potential expansion of online gambling in other provinces, panel moderator Paul Burns, president and CEO of national trade association the Canadian Gaming Association, said: “Political will — that’s the key. We had it in Ontario and we have to find it in the rest of the country."

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A longtime reporter and editor who began writing on casinos and gaming shortly after Atlantic City’s first gambling halls opened, Bill covered the world Series of Poker and wrote a syndicated column on travel to casino destinations for a decade.

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