Operators prepare for the opening of the Ontario online gambling market on Monday

TORONTO – Operators have high hopes for the launch of iGaming Ontario, as Canada’s largest province becomes the first jurisdiction to accept wagers in a legal private online gambling market.

Starting Monday, people in Ontario can wager on casino games, sporting events and other gambling activities through online websites and smartphone apps of operators registered to conduct business in the provincially regulated market.

Twenty-five operators were registered with iGaming Ontario as of Friday.

Not all sites will launch immediately, and the number of participating operators is expected to grow, according to the Ontario Alcohol and Gaming Commission, which regulates the industry. Those who plan to make bets have increased advertising to reach potential users before launch.

Sports betting site PointsBet Canada has been pushing its marketing campaign ahead of the market opening at midnight on Monday.

Curling Canada and other Canadian teams are partners with PointsBet, and the company is working with the Trailer Park Boys on a series of videos and online ads, a notable option since the Ontario regulator doesn’t allow ads featuring celebrities who have an audience. main underage comedy group Canuck is also set to host an in-person VIP launch party for the site in Toronto.

Patrick Eichner, a PointsBet spokesman, said the Ontario launch is important for the company that is already online in several US states with legalized online gambling.

“For all intents and purposes, you are launching a country,” he said. “Ontario is going to serve as both the home base and mecca for Canadian sports betting, so it needs to deliver that first impression and be strong from the start.”

Online gambling already existed in Ontario, primarily in the form of gray market websites operated outside of Canada and also through the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp., which launched its Proline+ sports book last summer after The federal government will legalize sports betting on a single event.

The province has said its regulated online gambling market will help “protect consumers and provide choice”. There is also the factor of potentially lucrative revenue from the growing market, although the province has not yet provided a projected revenue figure.

PointsBet Canada has a Canadian team of about 50 people, Eichner said.

Richard Schwartz, CEO of Rush Street Interactive’s BetRivers, said the company also hired 50 people in Toronto for its Ontario operations. The launch is also important for his company, because it is the largest jurisdiction in North America to legalize online casinos.

The online casino and sports betting site ran ads on Canadian television during the Winter Olympics featuring former TSN host Dan O’Toole in a bid to familiarize the local customer base with the brand, which Schwartz noted that he never operated in the country before the regulation.

“I think it put us on the map in Ontario, which was important to us, because … we started out without having any conscience,” he said.

Canadian brand theScore Bet has also launched online ads, featuring recognizable actors from TV shows Curb Your Enthusiasm and Entourage. The company was also planning a weekend of launch parties from Saturday through Monday night for fans in Toronto.

A spokeswoman for Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy said the government has not incorporated any projected income from iGaming Ontario into its revenue forecast, but more information could be available by the time the province presents its annual budget, which is expected this month. . Some other sources have projected revenue of up to $800 million in the first year of the market.

However, there have been some concerns from land-based casino operators and unions who fear the new online market could affect income and jobs at their venues if they pay taxes at a higher rate and lose customers.

A report prepared by HLT Advisory for Great Canadian Gaming, the province’s largest casino operator, projected the potential for thousands of lost jobs and $2.8 billion in lost revenue at land-based casinos in the five years after the market opened. online.

The findings stoked some fears from casino owners, unions and opposition politicians, who grilled government politicians at pre-budget consultations about their plans to offset potential losses at casinos hit during the lockdown. pandemic.

Bethlenfalvy spokeswoman Emily Hogeveen said in a statement that the iGaming framework “will complement, without detract from, traditional gaming activity by providing new opportunities for traditional gaming operators to diversify their offerings and cross-promote between games in line and traditional sites.”

The province is also taking steps to offset potential damage from gambling.

The Ontario Alcohol and Gaming Commission has established harm reduction standards for operators, including requiring sites to have a mechanism to monitor players for “taking harm.” Operators must also display “responsible gaming messages”, access to 24-hour help resources. and self-exclusion options. There are also rules that prohibit ads targeting minors or misleading ads.

Nigel Turner, an independent scientist at the Center for Addiction and Mental Health who has studied problem gambling for decades, said there are “positive and negative aspects” to legalizing online gambling.

There’s a chance more people could become addicted to behaviors like gambling as availability increases, he said. At the same time, people are already gambling online and legalization allows for more checks and balances.

After the market launch, Turner said he’ll be keeping an eye out for calls to helpline numbers and statistics about people seeking treatment, and how websites present information about health services.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on April 3, 2022.

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