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- FEATURE: Ontario Online Gambling
In principle, it’s legal for Canadians to make single-event sports bets, starting today. Bill C-218 has come into effect, repealing the federal prohibition against such wagering. However, it’s still up to each province and territory to decide what to do with that possibility. The approach each takes may also foreshadow their intentions vis-a-vis other forms of online gambling as well.
All parts of the country have access to parlay-based sports betting already through their respective lotteries. Most if not all should, at minimum, expand that to include single match betting. The question is which provinces and territories will take on private sector partners, whether for retail betting, online betting, or both.
“Canadians will have the opportunity to participate in single-event sport betting in a regulated and safe environment, at the discretion of the provinces and territories. The Government of Canada will continue discussions on the future of gaming, collaboratively with provincial and Indigenous partners.”
Ontario, Canada’s most populated province, will begin by expanding the existing Proline parlay betting lottery. The new Proline+ includes more types of bets than before, and allows bets on single selections. Yesterday, the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) was offering early registrants a $50 “sports betting bonus,” available to them upon launch. The current post-launch offer appears to have been reduced to $25.
So far, Ontario hasn’t allowed private sector competition. However, at least a dozen online betting operators have declared interest in or are rumored to be considering participating in a hypothetical privatized market. The odds are good that such a market will exist, as the province is in the process of doing exactly that for online casino gaming.
Once online gambling launches in Ontario, operators will need to pay a $100,000 regulatory fee per gaming site each year, read the Internet Gaming Operator Application Guide. While the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) released that guide on Aug. 18, the agency won’t be processing operator applications for a few weeks. It also hasn’t conclusively indicated whether that will include online sportsbooks.
As it stands, other provinces are already eyeing Ontario to see how private sector online casinos work out. Its approach to online sports betting may likewise prove to be a bellwether for most of the country.
Assuming private sector sports betting comes to pass in Ontario or elsewhere, many familiar faces from the US market should make an appearance, plus possibly some new ones. Play Canada named these operators as likely Ontario online sports betting operators:
As for the online gambling operators interested in Ontario, OPR has previously listed these possibilities:
Not every provincial lottery was ready to go on Day One. However, most should be extending their existing sports betting products in the near future, and some have been just as fast as Ontario. Here’s the status of each province and territory as of today.
Single game sports betting is available in Quebec on Day One.
Quebec is the second-largest province in Canada, with a population about half of Ontario’s. That makes it a potentially important market for online gambling and sports betting, but local politics make a private sector market less likely.
Its equivalent of Pro-Line is Mise-o-Jeu, and it has launched single game sports betting on day one. It’s also a province with lottery-operated online casino gaming through Loto-Québec’s website Espace Jeux.
British Columbia is the third-largest Canadian province, and has also gone live with single game betting on Day One.
Its lottery, operated by the British Columbia Lottery Corporation is already an heavyweight in online gambling thanks to its website PlayNow. BCLC partnered with BetMGM in April – allowing the operator owned by Entain and MGM Resorts International to use its responsible gambling tool, GameSense. BetMGM is adding the tool to its US online casino, poker and sportsbook apps this year. PlayNow also serves players in Manitoba.
However, it doesn’t sound as if the province is keen on opening up to the private sector in the short term. In its press release yesterday about single-event sports betting, BCLC said:
“BCLC continues to explore additional opportunities to implement single-event sports betting across land-based channels, including casinos and in British Columbia. Under BC’s Gaming Control Act, BCLC has the delegated authority to conduct and manage commercial gambling — including online gambling — on behalf of the province of BC. No other person or company may conduct, manage or operate a commercial gambling organization in BC.”
The three Prairie Provinces and three Territories all fall under the blanket of the Western Canada Lottery Corporation. Only Alberta and Manitoba have online casino gaming at the moment, through PlayAlberta and BCLC’s PlayNow respectively.
All six regions have access to parlay based sports betting through a WCLC owned website Sport Select. So far, it has not made the switch to single game betting, but Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis (AGLC) says it expects that this will arrive “later in 2021.”
Politically, the Prairies and especially Alberta are likely to be inclined towards working with the private sector. AGLC expressed an open attitude to CTV News Calgary about working with third-party stakeholders, at least for land-based sports betting at “destination facilities” throughout the province. Whether that leads to private sector online sports betting, or private sector online gambling more generally, is a matter of specualtion.
Update (09/01/21): AGLC announced on Sep. 1 that single game betting is now live on PlayAlberta. Manitoba has access to single-game betting through PlayNow, as before. Only Saskatchewan and the territories remain without such an option.
The four Atlantic Provinces also share a common lottery operator, the Atlantic Lottery Corporation (ALC). However, not all the provinces have been equally receptive to new gambling options, meaning that not all of ALC’s offerings are available in every province.
Like OLG, ALC offers sports betting under the Pro-Line brand. On day one of single game betting, three of the four provinces had agreed to the switch. Only Nova Scotia still has the old rules in effect, requiring players to bet on a parlay of three or more selections.
Private sector iGaming seems a long way off in Atlantic Canada. ALC has been trying to introduce online casino games, but so far has only received permission from New Brunswick to do so. There is still no regulated online casino or poker in Nova Scotia, Newfoundland or Prince Edward Island. So long as resistance to lottery-operated iGaming continues, the odds of private operators obtaining authorization are slimmer still.