Will 2022 be the year that online casino gambling takes hold in the US and Canada?

Where To Watch For 2022 Online Casino Expansion In North America

For optimism about the coming year, look to TikTok, Taylor Swift, and the online gambling industry. All three are “feeling 2022.”

The former relate to the #ImFeeling2022 hashtag and Swift urging listeners to “forget about the heartbreaks” while wishing her cat a happy 22nd birthday.

The latter bases its optimism on continued success in the new year, with at least one Canadian province and two US states possibly ready to join the list of legal online casino markets.

Ontario is slated to expand its iGaming marketplace to include private operators in early 2022. As of now, Canada’s most populous province offers online casino games exclusively via the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG).

As for US online gambling, no states are yet in the pipeline for online casino legalization or launch. However, Illinois and Maryland are the most likely ones to show some effort in 2022.

It’s not an unrealistic hope. After all, at the beginning of 2021, Connecticut hadn’t even passed legislation. On Oct. 19, however, it became the fifth state to offer both legal online casino gambling and sports betting. Michigan, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia complete the quintet.

Online casinos look to add to 2021 gains

States looking to join the online casino industry in 2022 already have some benchmarks.

In 2021, three states have generated $1 billion in online casino revenue. New Jersey and Pennsylvania reached that milestone in October, while Michigan waited until closer to the holidays. Although the Wolverine State only launched its online casinos and sportsbooks in late January, Michiganders managed to create $992.2 million in gross gaming revenue for the state through November.

All three major iGaming states will exceed $1B revenue in 2021 and two have already done so.

Data courtesy of NJ DGE, MGCB and PGCB

Plus, Connecticut‘s online casino marketplace is poised to surpass the comparatively longstanding West Virginia online gambling market. Neither of them will ever rival the revenue from the three national leaders, of course. Their monthly totals are in the single-digit millions vs. the three-figure revenue totals in each of the larger states.

Ontario to expand online casino offerings

In an effort to bring gray-market operators into the fold, Ontario created legislation built upon the Criminal Code of Canada that governs online gambling. Alberta officials announced similar intentions earlier in December.

Ontario is much farther along in its marketplace expansion process and initially hoped to launch this month. The province already has prospective online casino operators on the ground preparing for action. New operators are joining the gray-market operators, which have to cease taking bets in Ontario before they can apply for an operator agreement.

Once the online marketplace expands, Ontarians may spend as much as $1 billion on online gambling annually. That’s the amount the Office of the Auditor General of Ontario (OAG) says they’re already spending on OLG and unregulated gaming sites.

The OAG also recently cautioned officials that Ontario’s expanded marketplace may violate federal law.

Illinois, Maryland online casinos possible in 2022?

Of all of the remaining US states, Illinois and Maryland present the greatest hope for new legal online casinos in the US during 2022.

At the beginning of 2021, online gambling insiders were excited about the possibilities for Illinois. Its nearly 13 million residents, as well as the promise of commuters from border states without legal online casino games, foretold of great revenue opportunities.

During a committee meeting about legalization, Rep. Bob Rita asked those testifying whether online casino games would cannibalize retail casino revenue. Not only did stakeholders testify that modernization would not cause retail casino layoffs, they argued that it might complement their retail efforts and boost total gaming revenue.

On June 1, however, the Illinois General Assembly adjourned without passing an iGaming bill. The body could revisit the legislation when it reconvenes on Jan. 12. Unlike the states that legalized online casinos in 2021, Illinois already has an active online sports betting industry.

That would be the case for Maryland, too.

Although Maryland’s legal online sportsbooks are slated to launch in fall 2022, the state of 6 million residents hasn’t yet added online casinos to the mix. Any legislative effort to modernize Maryland’s gambling industry requires authorization from voters via a referendum.

The launch of online sports betting in a given state doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll approve online casinos, of course. As Legal Sports Report notes, sportsbooks take online bets in 16 states plus the District of Columbia. Internet sports betting is legal but not yet active in Louisiana, Maryland, and New York.

Maybe, though, state legislators will have a little relief from coronavirus worries in 2022 and be able to channel Swift’s lyrics:

“I don’t know about you

But I’m feeling 22

Everything will be alright”

- 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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