The clock is running fast. There are only 18 days for bettors in Ontario, Canada, to have the chance to start legally wagering in that territory. This was the first time private companies were allowed to apply for gaming licenses and offer their services in the province with the population of over 15 million. From April 4th on, global operators will be able to begin offering real money online gambling to local residents in a safe, regulated, and competitive environment.
In this sense, Ontario could have as many as five operators bringing iPoker to the province. To date, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO), the regulator, has issued a total of 14 Internet gaming operator licenses, including licenses issued at the beginning of March to 888 and WSOP. Another operator, Bet365, was issued a license by the AGCO this week, and could possibly launch online poker in Ontario as well. The operator has already registered a subdomain for online poker, but has yet to announce official plans to do so. Meanwhile, two additional operators (PokerStars and Partypoker) are likely to be part of this market, but are still working with the AGCO on satisfying their regulatory requirements.
Other element to be mentioned is that licensed online poker rooms in Ontario will be segregated. This means that fans playing on a poker network would play in games and tournaments separate from the rest of the world, including the rest of Canada. There is some chance this will open up in the future. The regulator had considered so-called “inter-jurisdictional compacts”, agreements between states, provinces, or countries that allow operators to pool liquidity across borders.
A CASE-BY-CASE REVIEW
Currently, 888 is ready to launch in April. It has successfully secured an Ontario gaming license for two years. The same situation applies to WSOP. The series acquired an Ontario license and will launch on the platform powered by the GGPoker software. As for Bet365, a UK-based global gaming giant that offers poker across Europe, it will also be part of the competition. These three operators also have their own online poker networks in other markets.
Whereas PokerStars and Partypoker are a little further behind. The first one is in the process of acquiring the license, and it will likely go live in Ontario during April. While the latter is working with Ontario authorities to secure the license, and it will be present for players at some point in 2022.
This market represents a huge opportunity for gambling companies. The regulations are permissive, allowing licensed operators to offer a full slate of online sports betting, casino games, and poker. Regarding taxation rate, it is still to be decided. The tax on land-based casinos is 55% of net gaming revenue. If the same rate were applied online, that would prohibit many companies from entering the market. Thankfully, the Governor and the regulator appear committed to forming a competitive, open environment and promoting channelization (getting as many consumers playing on licensed sites as possible), so a more sensible taxation rate will be decided upon.