Novelty betting, single-sport wagers and international liquidity pools: the possible futures of iGaming

By Allison Smith March 9, 2021

As the province moves to allow private companies to enter the online gambling sphere, a new discussion paper offers insight on the direction Ontario’s so-called iGaming industry could go.

The PCs want to hear from stakeholders on how future laws could ensure privatized online gambling is safe and competitive — while also realizing financial returns for both the province and gaming companies that will “accelerate recovery from the adverse impacts of COVID-19.”

The government acknowledges that Ontarians are already gambling online but said the vast majority of that activity is happening on unregulated websites. The OLG’s digital gaming initiative has yet to really take off, raising just $124 million in revenues in 2019-20, compared to the nearly $8 billion the agency raked in through casinos and lotteries that year.

Which gambling activities will be allowed is still up for discussion. Online slots, blackjack and roulette will get the go-ahead, but single-sport betting still needs to be authorized under Canada’s Criminal Code. The federal Liberal government tabled a bill last September to legalize single-sport betting, but it has languished on the order paper ever since.

The consultation paper calls single-sport betting “critical” to the proposed iGaming model (currently only “parlay-style” sports betting is allowed, which requires a minimum of two events to be combined into any wager).

Novelty betting on non-athletic events, like “the Oscars, elections, or even the gender of a royal baby,” could also be added to the mix. The province called novelty betting “an emerging trend that is growing in popularity.”

Also up for consideration are “pooled player liquidity for lottery schemes,” which allow players in different countries to play poker together and compete for combined jackpot. Going international would also require a Criminal Code change; a Canada-wide program would need buy-in from other provinces.

Rather than tax iGaming operators, the PCs are proposing a revenue-sharing model on their profits. That could involve operators setting up joint bank accounts with the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario so it can oversee the funds they generate from Ontario players.

The province doesn’t plan to cap the number of online gaming companies that can enter the market or give preference to existing casino operators. Online lotteries will be barred.

The AGCO will conduct separate consultations on operational issues like game testing and how users’ data is captured and stored by gambling firms.

Money-laundering concerns were also referenced in the discussion paper. The province intends to encourage operators to use “existing systems or third-party offerings” that comply with anti-money laundering standards and anti-fraud measures. It also plans to make sure responsible gambling requirements are met.