Ontario Prepares for Betting Market Growth

Ontario became the first province in Canada to take advantage of the C-218 bill and legalize single-game wagering earlier this year. The province launched single-game wagering with government-backed sportsbooks in December 2021 and announced its intentions to welcome commercial sportsbooks in January 2022. The regulated sports betting market went live on April 4, 2022. 

More than a dozen operators took advantage of this legislative change and launched legal online sportsbooks in the province. While we are still waiting for official revenue numbers from iGaming Ontario, experts expect these numbers to show the launch was hugely successful. 

The market may only be just over a month old, but recent announcements show Ontario sports betting is ready to take its next step forward. DraftKings is expected to receive a license and launch in the province in mid-2022. In addition, changes to horse racing betting regulations are expected to bring pari-mutuel betting to online sportsbooks in Ontario. Read our expert analysis of the news and what it means for the future of sports betting in Ontario below. 

DraftKings Announces Ontario Launch

Most of the biggest betting operators in the world were licensed by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission Ontario (AGCO) for the launch of regulated Ontario wagering on April 4, 2022. However, while US brands like FanDuel, BetMGM, and Caesars went live, DraftKings remained unavailable to Ontario bettors. DraftKings is one of the biggest sports betting operators in the US, available online in 17 states.  

The company’s latest earnings press release has announced it intends to bring its betting site to ON in the second quarter of 2022. This would suggest a launch before the end of June. DraftKings CEO Jason Robins seemed to confirm this as he said that the sportsbook would launch in Ontario in “the near future”. Before DraftKings can launch, it must pass AGCO’s licensing requirements. This includes meeting the province’s standards for player safety, financial security, and responsible gambling measures. Considering the operator has satisfied the regulatory needs of 17 different US states, this isn’t expected to be a problem. 

As one of the biggest sportsbook operators in the US, the addition of DraftKings to the Ontario-regulated betting market is expected to be a big boost. Competition has already been strong between established brands that previously operated in the unregulated market like bet365 and local operators like theScore Bet. Adding another top sportsbook to a market that features more than a dozen operators is expected to help the market grow. 

Imminent Changes to Horse Racing Betting Regulations 

The Kentucky Derby is one of the biggest horse races in North America, but bettors in Ontario couldn’t back any horses using online sportsbooks during the races on May 7. The C-218 bill, which allowed each province to regulate single-game wagers, didn’t include any horse racing legislation. So while the Ontario online sports betting market is regulated by the provincial government, horse racing betting is still controlled federally. 

At the moment, that federal legislation only includes pari-mutuel horse racing betting, which is regulated by the Canadian Pari-Mutuel Agency (CMPA). The CMPA can currently only issue licenses to racetracks. Woodbine Entertainment is the only racetrack operator licensed to provide pari-mutuel betting in Ontario, and you can wager on horse racing using the Darkhorse Bets or HPIbet apps. However, you can’t use a sportsbook to place horse racing bets.

Woodbine Entertainment’s CEO, Jim Lawson, has announced plans to integrate pari-mutuel horse racing betting with online sportsbooks. The issue is that Woodbine must get approval from the CMPA and then meet provincial regulations. Despite these issues, Lawson expects “all this will be available for Queen’s Plate weekend”. That means bettors may be able to place legal horse racing bets online by August 2022. 

Fines for BetMGM and PointsBet

It’s not been all good news for sportsbooks operators, and BetMGM and PointsBet were hit with fines from AGCO for breaking advertising regulations. BetMGM posted several tweets advertising offers for the sportsbook and online casino. This went against Standard 2.04 of the Standards for Internet Gaming, which states a sportsbook can only advertise on its website if a player consents. For this breach and for failing Standard 2.05, BetMGM was fined $48,000. 

PointsBet was also fined for breaching Standard 2.04 as the company advertised the chance to play for free on posters on GO trains and in GO stations. CEO of PointsBet, Scott Vanderwel, said he wanted to “personally apologize” for the error. BetMGM has yet to release an official statement. All US sportsbooks in Canada have to adjust to the province’s strict advertising rules, but this isn’t expected to impact the market’s growth. 

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