Ontario government seeks to end monopoly in online gambling

Ontario’s Conservative government has announced plans to stop the current wave of online gambling monopoly in the province. There’s also good news for sports betting as it revealed plans to legalise single-event sports betting.

As part of the 2019 provincial budget, the government made known its plans to establish a more competitive market for legal online gambling “that will reflect consumer choice while protecting consumers who play on these websites”.

The government’s proposed market will only include both casino-style gaming and sports betting, and key stakeholders would be consulted to create a detailed plan on how the newly formed market will operate.

Currently, Ontario operates under a monopoly-based system, with the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) recognised as the only approved operator to offer igaming products and services via its official website.However, with the newly formed laws, several Canadian bookmaker site can now be leveraged on by gamblers in Ontario.

Paul Burns, Canadian Gaming Association’s President and Chief Executive Officer, stated that with the new system, offshore betting companies can now have a spot in Ontario’s online gambling field, as they are already accepted and preferred by most players.

Legalising single event sports wagering was also not left out in the budget, as the government expressed its desire to legalize it in Ontario—even referencing quite a number of top individuals in the North American professional sports market who have previously shown support for the motion. This is another positive for the industry considering the fact that only wagering on multiple events and parlay betting is legal.

Peter Curtis, a founding partner of Toronto-based Pathway Group, had earlier filed a registration with the federal Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying last week. This was done on behalf of one of its clients, a sports news website, theScore.

According to the brief registration, Curtis said he will only be “lobbying (to) legalize sports betting,” and his main targets are MPs and the Prime Minister’s Office.

In a report by Toronto Sun, Ontario Finance Minister Vic Fedeli wrote to federal counterpart Bill Morneau in March asking for “an amendment to the Criminal Code of Canada that would legalize single event sports wagering in Canada.”

He noted that in 2018, a U.S. Supreme Court decision gave individual states the authority to legalize single-game sports betting in their jurisdictions.

Now, a total of eight states are already providing sports betting, both in conventional land casinos and via online/mobile channels, and another twenty others, including neighbouring cities Michigan and New York, are bound to follow suit in recent years, Fedelinoted.

“Single event sports wagering is one of the fastest growing categories of gambling entertainment,” said Fedeli. “In fact, in a typical year, more than 90 percent of the sports dollars wagered in Nevada sportsbooks are on single event bets.”

After the confirmation of the legalisation in the provincial budget, theScorereleased a statement showing its support for the proposal.

“theScore has always embraced the fact that sports betting is part of the overall fan experience, and it is finally time for jurisdictions across Canada to adopt common sense sports betting regulation,” said John Levy, founder and CEO of theScorein a statement.

Also, NHL ice hockey league commissioner, Gary Bettman, is one of those that showed support for the new regulation, saying that a level playing field for wagering betting is “in the best interest of the NHL’s own sports betting landscape.”

“With two NHL franchises in Ontario and two right on the border with the US, Ontario is a very important market for the NHL,” Bettman said. “Accordingly, the NHL does not object to the Province of Ontario's initiative to offer single event wagering when it is permitted.”

Adam Silver, NBA basketball commissioner, has also given his support to legalizing single-event sports betting in Ontario, noting that such regulation would help to protect fans and the integrity of games.

“Should the Federal Government permit betting on single sporting events, the NBA would support the Province of Ontario offering this form of betting, subject to appropriate safeguards,” said Silver.

“The NBA has agreements with multiple licensed international gaming companies that incorporate these safeguards and can help provide a roadmap for Ontario.”

Not left out was Major League Soccer (MLS) commissioner Don Garber and Canadian Football League commissioner Randy Ambrosie, who have both voiced their support for Ontario's sports betting plans.

With the new system, Ontario’s government is now keen to work more closely with professional sports leagues and teams such as NBA franchise the Toronto Raptors. This would help provide players with greater gaming experiences and entertainment.

Additionally, the government will now permit casinos to advertise complimentary alcohol. The move was made in a bid to create a more level playing field for casinos in Ontario and allow them to compete more effectively with other facilities in the US.


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