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- FEATURE: Ontario Online Gambling
Ontario online gamblers could only place bets with a single regulated iGaming site – the lottery’s own OLG.ca – until two weeks ago. As of yesterday, they officially had 16 to chose from, and that number may soon double.
That would mean that province has as extensive an array of brands as New Jersey, the most crowded US market. The Garden State is often a go-to testing state for online casino and sports betting operators entering the US market.
Ontario could even end up surpassing all US online casino states, in terms of its sheer volume of legal operators.
April 4 marked the official launch of the province’s expanded iGaming marketplace. Prior to that, only Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) offered legal iGaming.
Since then, 29 operators have joined OLG on the list of operators approved by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO).
More than half of those companies have already signed operating agreements with iGaming Ontario (iGO) had launched. 13 operators entered the marketplace on day one, then two more went live last week.
One major force in the market will be Isle of Man-headquartered Entain. It forms half of the BetMGM joint venture, along with Las Vegas-based MGM Resorts International. It also launched its own Bwin and Party brands last week, and may end up bringing its new acquisition, Sports Interaction to the market, despite originally having said it wouldn’t do so.
About a dozen other brands have AGCO approval but no operating agreement as yet. Meanwhile, the AGCO has added three new ones to the list since launch day.
On April 19, AGCO approved Betway’s application to offer eight online gambling URLs, representing everything from online casino to in-play sports betting.
Betway is a well-known online sportsbook brand Europe, but was relatively unknown in North America until its owner announced plans in September 2021 to expand.
As of April 13, the Guernsey-based Super Group (SGHC) announced Betway Casino was live in New Jersey and Pennsylvania and it was making progress on online sports betting, too.
Betway Sports had already launched in:
SGHC said Betway has market access to a dozen US states via Florida-based Digital Gaming Corporation (DGC). SGHC is slated to acquire DGC during the “second half of this year.”
The market access without live Betway apps includes:
Of those five states, only Louisiana’s statewide online sports betting market is live. Mississippi only allows such wagers at retail casinos.
Of note, SGHC also owns online casino operator Spin, which it appears to be using for the Ontario App Store. There, Apple users will see Betway titles as SpinSport. Android users will see Betway, according to AGCO.
Also, AGCO issued the Betway approvals to Alderney-based Cadway Limited, which SGHC declared it owned in its Jan. 27 report to the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). SGHG called Cadway a “not yet operational” gaming operator.
That SEC document concerned SGHC going public. Yesterday, SGHC stock traded at $9.60, up from its Jan. 28 start at $8.25.
On April 13, AGCO approved Toronto-based NorthStar Gaming to offer iGaming under the brand name NorthStar. The URL NorthStarBets.ca wasn’t yet live yesterday, but was accepting registrants.
The site said NorthStar Bets would launch online casino and sports betting as soon as it reached an operating agreement with iGaming Ontario (iGO).
An April 14 press release about the AGCO approval termed NorthStar Bets’ launch “imminent,” but the operator wasn’t on iGO’s list as of yesterday.
NorthStars Bets is a subsidiary of Canadian media company Torstar, which owns several important papers including the Toronto Star. It has been publishing “partner content” sports betting advice from NorthStar Bets for months.
Once the app launches, it will be NorthStar’s debut as an online gambling operator.
Playtech’s Jan. 11 announcement said NorthStar Gaming will be its exclusive media and publishing partner:
“Following the completion of regulatory approvals and the licensing process, NorthStar Gaming will be ready to launch Playtech’s IMS Platform, Casino, Live Casino, Poker and Bingo software to Canadian audiences.”
NorthStar Gaming CEO and Co-founder Michael Moskowitz said in the April 14 announcement that the operator has the advantage of relevance to Ontarians:
“As a local operator, the opportunity for us to design, build and launch a platform for our home market is very special. We’re proud to call Ontario home and look forward to introducing our content-rich platform to consumers.”
AGCO approved Buddybet Malta on April 5. Doing business as Buddybet, this app doesn’t appear to be seeking a front-runner status.
One of its first ads showed men playing tug-of-war with a giant gingerbread cookie.
As the site described the operator:
“Social betting is a game played primarily for fun, validation or to socialise.”
Friends can bet against each other on music, movies, “the royals” or even sports.
As Katy Jean wrote on April 11 for Online Poker Report, Buddybet isn’t the only obscure betting site to join the fray in Ontario. It may be the most colorful, though.
Aspirant operators start with applications with the regulator, AGCO. Once they receive that approval, they move on to seek an operating agreement with iGO.
On Launch Day the following operators had AGCO approval and those in bold went live:
According to iGO yesterday, these 15 operators hold an operating agreement with the body. OLG makes 16, but isn’t on iGO’s list because it is itself a government organization and doesn’t need iGO to “conduct and manage” its business to be in compliance with federal law.
Note that 888, BetMGM and Partypoker each have multiple URLs listed on iGO’s site, as they separate out their casino, sports betting and poker sites.