Featured in this article:
  • Ontario to legalize online sports betting on April 4th
  • Some casinos want two-year exclusivity period and fear jobs losses
  • As many as 30 sportsbooks apply for unlimited Ontario licences

4 Minute Read

Some Ontario casinos want controls over sports betting to prevent an influx in the market

Great Canadian Gaming, owner of one of Ontario’s biggest casino chains, has submitted a request to change the path of the province’s online betting controls in an effort, it says, to protect employees.

In a presentation to the government, CGC argues that controlling the flow of new online betting companies in the state will help already-established brands on the highstreet.

It argues that opening Ontario to outside licence applications would flood the market and have a negative impact on ‘brick and mortar’ establishments that have battled hard to stay open during COVID-19 lockdowns.

But critics have hit back, claiming the appeal comes too late for the government to change its mind.

Casino Latest In Ontario

Ontario authorities are due to pass legislation that would legalize online betting. That means players who don’t want to attend highstreet casinos will be able to wager on games and bet on sports from their computers and smartphones.

‘Brick and mortar’ casinos have arguably enjoyed a monopoly on the gambling trade for decades. After all, since 1985 Ontario – one of Canada’s most liberal states – has welcomed casinos in cities such as Toronto, Ottawa, Kingston and the like.

The industry is booming. Ontario casinos generated $3.8bn in revenues during 2021, and that is expected to increase further in 2022 as more coronavirus restrictions relax.

The government has also been seeking to approve online betting. Ontario will go live on April 4th, states regulator iGaming Ontario, and an estimated 30 sportsbooks have applied for licences.

The majority of these sportsbooks have bases either in the US or Europe. Great Canadian Gaming has already tried to delay the launch date but has been unsuccessful.

For And Against Casino Control

So what is so wrong about opening up the online betting market? Well, GCG operates 12 casinos in the province and has argued that new online sports sites entering Ontario would “cannibalize” the profits of established casino operators.

In a report written in December and shared with the government, GCG warns that as many as 2,600 casino jobs would be lost by the emergence of online competitors in the market – and that the province would lose $2.8bn in tax revenue over five years.

It also requested the government grant a two-year exclusivity period to established casinos over online wagering, and crack down on unregulated sites.

However, The Star reports that critics of the appeal are arguing an open market – where online sports betting brands can flourish without any additional controls bar those surrounding gambling legislation – would trigger an innovation boom in Ontario, creating tech jobs and more.

TheScore, which already offers betting in the US, has already hired 200 new employees in Ontario last year and plans to double that to support the Ontario launch.

What’s more, grey market operators already exist in Ontario and haven’t significantly impacted on the profits of highstreet casinos.

“We don’t see any compelling reason for there to be another day of delay,” said Benjie Levy, president and chief operating officer of theScore. “There should not be another Super Bowl or March Madness where we are dealing with the grey market.”

Until April 4th, the only legal way to bet on sports online is via the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. Other big brands are also “live” in the state but not officially.

That will all change come the spring, when a three-year planning process for the implementation of new laws comes to an end. The government hopes in launching legal betting sites, the popularity of grey sportsbooks will fall away.

Natasha Krstajic, press secretary to Attorney General Doug Downey, said the new market will “complement existing land-based (casino) gaming activity by providing a new opportunity for Ontario’s land-based operators to expand into igaming to diversify revenue sources and cross-promote between online and land-based sites”.

The following betting companies have applied or are expected to apply for an Ontario licence:

  • PointsBet
  • TheScore
  • BetMGM
  • DraftKings
  • FanDuel

Joseph Ellison

Joseph is a dedicated journalist and horse racing fanatic who has been writing about sports and casinos for over a decade. He has worked with some of the UK's top bookmakers and provides Premier League soccer tips on a regular basis. You'll likely find him watching horse racing or rugby when he isn't writing about sport.

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