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A New Era In Canadian Gaming As Operators Can Launch Their Sports Betting And Igaming Apps In Ontario

Image by Dinh Quan from Pixabay

Canada’s most populous province took the leap and launched the country’s first legalized and regulated gambling market. Around two years ago, the province invited commercial gaming operators to launch their sports betting and igaming apps and platforms. The question is, how has it fared for the operators, and is it only big-named international brands that are dominating the market or has it opened up opportunities for newer, entrepreneurial businesses?

There was much excitement when the decision was taken, as Canadians are known for their affiliation with gambling. It could almost be regarded as a national pastime, with more than 60% of the population claiming to have gambled in the previous month. The industry is regulated by iGaming Ontario (iGO), and when it launched in April 2022, thirteen operators were approved to run poker sites, online casinos and sportsbooks. The latest count is seventy-two, so there can be no doubt the industry sector is growing. Right from the outset, the list has included high-profile US and European brands, but there are also firms with Canadian roots who have been making the most of the opportunities on offer.

Between 2022 and 2023, the iGaming market increased by more than 50% in value of wagering each quarter, meaning that it grew by 200% in the first year. The most popular sports wagers were basketball, soccer, football, hockey and baseball. When it comes to online casino games, the online slots are the top earners, accounting for almost half of all stakes wagered, live table games were around a third and automated / video table games made up around a fifth of the total. At the beginning of 2023, the total amount wagered was almost $14 billion, and the online gambling revenue had pocketed a cool $526 million in gaming revenue. Over one million players set themselves up an online account, and in the first year of operating, fifteen months of operating, fifty-four online casinos registered with the iGO.

While a brand-new and receptive market is undoubtedly good news for the operators, not all of them have been able to thrive.  The Alcohol and Gaming Commission reportedly kicked out seventeen unregulated operators, and William Hill, Eurobet and Unibet all withdrew from the market for varying reasons, but one has to assume it was not as easy to make money as they had hoped. While an established name can be comforting to the punter, it is often newer and more innovative operators who flourish in the market. This is particularly true of mobile-first platform operators who understand not only casino gaming but the mindset behind players who want to access via apps and have fun on the go.

For the consumer, navigating the market can be something of a minefield. With so many licensed operators, how is a player supposed to know which ones are the best? While the iGO license is a ‘stamp of approval’, it does not offer any recommendations or advice to players. They could ask a friend for a recommendation, but if the friend is into soccer betting and they want to have a spin on the slots, the advice they receive might be irrelevant. The launch of igaming and sports betting in Ontario has also led to the creation of online casino review sites like Casino.ca, which offers a service similar to what you would be looking for when buying a book or wondering what movie to watch.

Rather than leaving it up to chance and guesswork, the review sites stick their necks out, make recommendations and offer opinions on which sites and games are hot and which are not. They tell customers which ones to avoid and where to find the best bonuses and promotions in the market. However, it is not just a subjective selection; they rate the sites against a judging criteria and rank the sites according to how they match up.

The names that top their ranks might not be the ones plastered all over team shirts or advertising hoardings, but they consistently rank operators like PlayOJO, Spin Casino, and Jackpot City. These platforms all have good payout rates north of ninety-six percent, excellent game choice, and easy navigation and interaction.

The growth of the industry has not come without concern as people worry about the effect on mental health and possible problem gambling and addiction. The industry argument is that people will gamble anyway and that it is better if it is conducted in a safe and regulated market. Regulation means that all operating sites must adhere to rules around safe gambling tools and make them easily accessible for players. As attempts in countries like the USA have shown, prohibition does not prevent something from happening but drives it underground and into the hands of irresponsible operators.

The current consensus is that it is better to keep people safe by regulating and ensuring they can access the necessary help before gambling becomes a problem. The advice is to regard gambling as you would any other form of entertainment, just as if buying tickets for a show,  set a limit before you start off, and never gamble more than you can afford to lose. Reputable sites have limits on the amount that can be staked and checks in place to ensure people have the tools they need to avoid gambling harms.

While the commercial companies in the gambling industry have mostly flourished, the province of Ontario has also profited from its regulated market. All those companies pay licensing fees and taxes which are welcome income into the provincial coffers. In this new era of Canadian gaming, the hope is that everyone can be a winner, one way or another.

 

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