DraftKings now has representation on the CGA board, along with FansUnite, Nuvei and Great Canadian Gaming Corp.

CGA Board Adds Four More Corporate Leaders As Ontario Privatization Looms

If the new members of the Canadian Gaming Association (CGA) are any indication, Canada‘s gaming trade association is getting serious about online gambling.

It’s no wonder, since the country’s first privatized iGaming market, Ontario, may be launching as soon as next month. Industry leaders from DraftKings and FansUnite Entertainment joined the board, as did executives from the Great Canadian Gaming Corporation (GCGC) and electronic payment processing provider Nuvei.

The four new members were announced during an annual meeting on Monday. They will join a board that already includes corporate leaders from Flutter International and Scientific Games Corporation (SG). The remaining board members have backgrounds in other areas of the industry, such as retail casinos and responsible gambling.

This is a busy time for Canada. Not only are regulated Ontario online casinos and sportsbooks coming soon, but Canada’s launch of single-event sports betting came just a few months ago in August.

In the press release about the board additions, Paul Burns – president and CEO of Toronto-headquartered CGA – said:

“These seasoned professionals have strong track records as trusted leaders in the gaming industry, and they will provide invaluable insight as we look to launch a regulated iGaming market in Ontario and single-event sports betting across Canada.”

New CGA board members have 100 years of experience

CGA’s new board members are:

  • Scott Burton, CEO, FansUnite
  • Neil Erlick, Chief Corporate Development Officer, Nuvei
  • Jeffrey Haas, SVP, International Strategy, DraftKings Inc.
  • Chuck Keeling, EVP, Stakeholder Relations and Responsible Gaming, GCGC

While DraftKings Casino and DraftKings Sportsbook are highly popular US online gambling products, the online gambling operator is mainly known in Canada for its daily fantasy sports (DFS) offering. In August, the company added in its DraftKings Marketplace in Canada.

What CGA highlights about its new board member from DraftKings is:

“Haas has 20-plus years’ experience helping build some of the largest digital and terrestrial gaming businesses in the world, including DraftKings, PokerStars, the World Poker Tour (WPT), Asia Pacific Poker Tour (APPT), European Poker Tour (EPT) and PartyPoker.”

FansUnite was so excited about Burton joining the board that the company put out its own announcement on Monday:

“To have the opportunity to help shape the future of Canadian gaming is an honor. I look forward to working with the CGA to ensure the best experience for sports betting and iGaming operators and consumers.”

Similarly, the company released a statement on Nov. 1 about how it had “formally submitted its application to the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (the “AGCO”) to become a fully registered Gaming Related Supplier – Manufacturer.”

Suppliers had to wait a bit later than operators did to apply through AGCO for Ontario online gambling licenses.

11 existing CGA board members include Flutter, SG leaders

The new four are joining the eleven existing members:

  • Danielle Bush, Counsel, McCarthy Tetrault, LLP
  • Dean Ehrlich, EVP and Games Business Leader, Everi
  • David Flinn, Regional VP, Sales, Canada, South and Central America, IGT
  • Ilkim Hincer, EVP and Chief Legal Officer, Hard Rock International
  • Carrie Kormos, Chief Marketing and Communication Officer, Gateway Casinos and Entertainment
  • Adriane McGrath, VP, Business Development, Konami Gaming Inc.
  • Bob Parente, EVP and CRO, Scientific Games
  • Rob Scarpelli, Managing Director, HLT Inc.
  • George Sweny, VP, Regulatory Affairs, Flutter International
  • Richard Taylor, President, Niagara Casinos
  • Shelley White, President and CEO, Responsible Gambling Council

Most of these represent the retail industry or suppliers who have a foot in both worlds.

The addition of the new members will roughly double the representation of iGaming in the mix, but it wasn’t absent before. Sweny and Parente, along with the new members, will be important advocates for online gambling.

Flutter’s long-time board membership will help its plans

Among those longer-time members, Sweny stands out for his role with Flutter. He’s likely to be an influential board member, given his umbrella company’s push to have presence in the country

FanDuel is a leading US online gambling operator primarily owned by Flutter Entertainment. That company’s Flutter International division boasts of its flagship brand, PokerStars, which is also a leading US online poker operator. At the moment, PokerStars operates in Canada’s gray market – which is one of the reasons Ontario’s lawmakers are allowing such operators to register for the upcoming private marketplace.

Flutter International’s other brands, in Flutter Entertainment’s order of importance, include:

  • PokerStars Casino
  • PokerStars Sports
  • Betfair International
  • Adjarabet
  • Junglee Games

In 2015, Sweny joined The Stars Group – then called Amaya – before Flutter acquired it. Previously, his career that began in 1975 at the Ontario Lottery Corporation (OLC) involved leadership positions at a veritable laundry list of organizations. They included:

  • AGCO,
  • OLC,
  • British Columbia Lottery Corporation (BCLC), 
  • Interprovincial Lotteries Corporation (ILC), 
  • Len Stuart and Associates (LSA),
  • North American State Provincial Lotteries Association (NASPL), 
  • Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) and 
  • Responsible Gambling Council of Canada

Meanwhile, FanDuel now has a “General Manager of Canada.”

Dale Hooper assumed that role last month, the company announced. In the US, FanDuel’s sports betting app – FanDuel Sportsbook – is leading the nation in revenue in that vertical.

An evolving role for Scientific Games

As for Parente, the role of Scientific Games in Canada is going to shift in the near future. SG Lottery has been working with OLG, the Atlantic Lottery and the Western Canada Lottery. However, the company has recently sold off both its lottery and sports betting wings to focus on iGaming.

They should still be present in the market as a supplier, but working with the private sector once Canadian online casinos get off the ground.

As SG President and CEO Barry Cottle foreshadowed in September:

“We’re progressing rapidly in our strategy and our vision to become the leading cross-platform global game company.”

More online casino operators are interested in Canada

The CGA board is just partial glimpse of which operators are interested in offering online gambling in Canada. From BetMGM to BetRivers, several online casino operators are making a play for the soon-to-open Ontario market.

Still more are waiting in the wings.

It’s hard to blame them, if Vixio Regulatory Intelligence‘s forecast holds true.

In September, James Kilsby wrote for Vixio:

“The opportunity in Ontario is significant. VIXIO forecasts Ontario’s online gambling market to generate total gross revenue of C$989m in its first year – before growing to C$1.86bn by 2026 – placing the province firmly among the largest online gambling markets in North America.”

- Heather Fletcher is the lead writer with OnlinePokerReport. She's a career journalist, with bylines in The New York Times, Adweek and other publications. Reach her at [email protected]
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