For Doug Hood, project director, sports betting at the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO), the launch of a regulated Ontario sports betting market has come off pretty much as expected so far.
“So far, so good,” he said. “What we are hearing from the industry is the framework we set up offers flexibility, so if you want to offer a bet, you can get it to market quickly, and you know you can do it within the framework that we provided.”
Hood opened the SiGMA Americas summit in Toronto on Tuesday morning, three days of workshops, networking and awards being held this week at Enercare Centre, with a “lay of the land” summary for attendees. The legal market in Ontario is barely two months old.
“As a kick-off to Day 1, you get to listen to a regulator,” he said, half-jokingly. But considering how rapidly the sports betting landscape has shifted in Ontario, Hood’s presentation out of the gate was appropriate. The market went live on April 4.
As he said to the audience, some of whom are not familiar with Ontario’s evolution from grey market to a two-month-old regulated market, it has been fast moving and exciting. That’s from the passage last summer at the federal level of Bill C-218, legalizing single-event sports betting across Canada, to the opening of Ontario’s iGaming market, which the AGCO regulates and iGaming Ontario conducts and manages.
'Making Sure Ontario Players Were Being Protected'
As of Tuesday, 38 Internet Gaming Operators licenses have been issued, with 24 iGaming websites up and operating. Check out some of the top Ontario sports betting apps that have launched.
The government objectives, according to Hood, were consumer choice, consumer protection, the growth of the legal market, and to reduce red tape, “channeling as much online gambling as we could into the regulated market, making sure Ontario players were being protected by the highest standards for responsible gambling, player protection and industry integrity” in alignment with those goals.
Hood added the regulator has tried to allow for as big a variety of bets and bet types as they could, so protected players could play the games they expect to see online — in-play betting, betting on esports, and such.
‘Criteria-Based Approach’ in Ontario
He also emphasized the AGCO’s “criteria-based approach” — operators can offer bets as long as they meet the criteria they are presented with.
“Criteria includes participants needing to be 18 and over, bets can’t be objectionable [i.e. bets on someone dying], and operators need to have a relationship with an independent integrity monitor,” Hood said. “We want to make sure that integrity information shared amongst sports, law enforcement, regulators, and through the industry is done efficiently.”
Hood also made sure to point out that AGCO officials understood from the get-go they were in “learning mode,” so they listened to experts in the industry during their consultation phase.
“We didn’t want to re-invent the wheel, so we looked around the world and identified the best parts of different systems that were already in operation … when it came to our regulatory framework. The integrity monitor section we took from the United States model, for example,” he said.
Hood referenced how the International Betting Integrity Association has indicated they would like to see the Ontario model exported to other jurisdictions in the world.
Keeping an Eye on Advertising & Marketing
Moving forward, the AGCO is monitoring media partnerships, advertising and marketing, “which is always a hot topic.” Hood also referenced emerging technologies and innovation, when it comes to sports betting, esports, and responsible gambling.
SiGMA Americas is an international hub for everything around the iGaming industry, from regulation, to marketing, to responsible gaming. Operators, providers, IT experts, innovators, entrepreneurs and investors are gathering for the first event of its kind held in Ontario, timed of course around the launch of the regulated Ontario online casinos and sports betting markets
Tuesday morning was broken up into a series of panel discussions around topics like sports wagering, customer acquisition and retention, cryptocurrency for regulated iGaming and sports betting, and investing in the gaming and sports wagering industry.