The 5 Most Notable Aspects of Monumental Year In Ontario Gaming

The 5 Most Notable Aspects of Monumental Year In Ontario Gaming
By Mark Keast
Fact Checked by Jim Tomlin

There is not much to quibble about when we review 2022 for Ontario betting sites, whether it’s digital casino, poker, or sports betting across Canada’s most populous province.

The end of 2022 is a good time to sit back with a nice glass of scotch, maybe a cigar, and look back at the year that was.

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The Good: The April 4 Launch

In October, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario was awarded the International Association of Gaming Regulators’ (IAGR) Regulatory Excellence Award for its work in developing, then implementing, the regulatory framework for Ontario online casinos.

That’s a pretty good indicator of how well the rollout went.

This week, there are 36 legal entities in Ontario in the casino, poker and sports betting categories, and 68 live gaming sites, and there are more on the way. In November the AGCO reported that 46 sportsbook and online casino operators had left the grey market to join the regulated one. 

“Before the launch of the new competitive iGaming market last April, residents of Ontario wagered significant amounts each year on iGaming websites with limited consumer protection and responsible gambling measures,” said Tom Mungham, CEO of the AGCO. “Many players who accessed these sites were not aware they were in fact unregulated. We are honored to be recognized on the international stage for our efforts to serve the people of Ontario.” 

The framework, and how it was rolled out, is being followed closely in other Canadian provinces, and in other regions of the world, Canadian Gaming Association president and CEO Paul Burns said.

“It's been recognized clearly, and I've heard it in all my travels to all the conferences, that people are saying very positive things about the Ontario model,” Burns said. “What is clear is that other (Canadian) jurisdictions don't want the grey markets to continue.”

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The Bad: Too Much Oxygen For Grey Market

Some had real issues with the AGCO’s decision to allow those who didn’t have operating agreements with iGaming Ontario, and hadn’t gone live in the regulated market, to continue operating in the grey market after fully regulated Ontario betting apps launched in the province. Operator applications, after all, were accepted as far back as September 2021.

Many operators came out of the gate legally on April 4, so why were they allowed to lose money to those who didn’t get licensed in time? The AGCO didn’t put the hammer down – grey market operators no longer being able to take bets – until Oct. 31.

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The Good: Those Q2 Numbers

As Burns always told us, don’t judge how the market is doing, especially against comparable states in the U.S. market such as Pennsylvania or New Jersey, until Ontario is two or three quarters in.

The iGaming Ontario Q2 stats released showed a nice uptick in GGR, through Sept. 30. Q2 market numbers showed total wagers at $6.04 billion, with total gaming revenue at $267 million. Those were 48% and 65% increases, respectively, from Q1 numbers through June 30. All eyes now are on the Q3 release, through Dec. 31.

“I think when you look at it's going to take two more a couple more quarters to fully realize what the market is,” Burns told Ontario Bets earlier in September. “Let’s see when everyone gets to market what it’s going to mean.”

And remember those numbers – which include all segments including sports and casino, including Ontario online slots, don’t include OLG results. OLG releases standalone numbers. 

According to their 2021-22 annual budget (fiscal year runs through March 31), digital gaming proceeds were at $511 million (net to the province: $223 million), a 44% increase compared to the previous fiscal year. 

Once an open market went live April 4, though, those numbers started to dip. OLG’s internet gaming numbers (excluding its internet lottery) increased by just 7% from $101 million from April to June to $108 million in the three-month period ending September.

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The Bad: Out-Of-Control Advertising

Yes, you can go at Rogers, for example, and ask them to re-invest their new-found ad dollar treasure on worthy projects like local journalism, thanks to the largesse of some of the bigger Ontario sports betting apps operators.

But you are wasting your breath. They’ll pocket it and move on.

We applaud some of the creativity we’ve been seeing, though. The FanDuel Ontario Sportsbook holiday ad that just dropped, with two family seniors scrapping after a debate about politics – as the dead-eye kid stabs the turkey and the aunt tells the young nephew about her psoriasis – is hilarious. Even those Wayne Gretzky-Connor McDavid ads haven’t worn thin, yet.

So if you are going to avalanche us with sportsbook ads, then at least entertain us. 

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The Bad Turned Good: What Took So Long?

It took too long in the eyes of some people in the industry, but the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. finally announced in October that Ontario’s casinos could offer sportsbooks

So casino operators crushed by pandemic restrictions over the past few years in the wake of COVID-19 can now package true Vegas-style live sports betting experiences to guests.

“This ongoing collaboration will result in new and expanded options for sports betting – including some first-of-their-kind sportsbooks in Canada – which will attract more people to visit Ontario’s casinos and encourage continued growth across the industry,” Burns said.

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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.