Ontario’s new online gambling market delayed until mid-February, sources say at Star

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Ontario football fans planning to bet on this year’s Gray Cup or even the next Super Bowl may need to continue betting with the province’s lottery corporation.

Indeed, the government is expected to postpone the launch of the province’s new market for online gambling and sports betting until next year, according to industry sources, due to bureaucratic delays in finalizing conditions and market structure.

The province had planned a market launch in December, which will allow private sector operators to offer online betting – on games like slots, blackjack and poker – and betting on sporting events, in a regulated environment.

Ontario is expected to be the first province to follow such a path, an attempt to attract some of the big international gray market players, while imposing responsible gambling standards and capturing tax revenue in the process. The government says Ontarians spend about $ 1 billion a year on online gambling, and 70% of that goes to sites that aren’t regulated here.

In an interview with The Star in August, Attorney General Doug Downey said he hoped the new market would be up and running in time for the Canadian Football League championship game, which will see the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Tiger – Hamilton Cats face off on Sunday. Government websites also put a December deadline for the launch.

But now according to five Industry sources say the market is not expected to launch until mid-February at the earliest, which could also miss the February 13 date for the National Football League’s Super Bowl. The Star does not identify the sources as they spoke on condition of anonymity, concerned about job prospects and relations with regulators and the government.

Two sources said the timeline was extended in part because policies remained pending regarding issues such as game conditions, data management and security requirements. It also creates uncertainty for private operators who plan to apply for a license and invest in the market, who will need time to adjust their own systems to comply.

Brian Gray, spokesperson for the Ministry of the Attorney General, declined to comment directly on the launch date of the online market.

“The government continues to work internally and with potential operators to ensure that the government (including iGO) and operators are ready for launch,” he said, referring to iGaming Ontario, a news agency that the province created in July to manage the market.

Until private operators can officially begin offering their products, legal online betting in the province will continue to flow through the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp., the crown corporation that manages gambling.

The federal government recently amended the criminal law to allow betting on single sporting events (previously, only betting on the outcome of more than one match at a time was allowed). But since that change took effect in August, only the OLG has been able to legally offer unique sports betting in the province.

Gambling is illegal in Canada, but an exception in the Criminal Code allows provinces to “direct and manage it,” which most have done through provincial lottery corporations.

When it came to deciding who would lead and manage the privatized online gambling market, the province bypassed the OLG and instead created iGaming Ontario, a subsidiary of the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of the Ontario.

The AGCO itself is responsible for regulating gambling, which involves establishing responsible gambling standards and anti-money laundering provisions.

Delay in Launching Privatized Online Gaming Market Comes as Provincial Auditor General Says in a report last week that the framework used by Ontario could be subject to legal challenge.

“There are indicators that a large part of the decision-making power and commercial risks will lie with private operators,” the report says. “As a result, there is a legal risk as to whether iGaming Ontario meets the ‘conduct and manage’ threshold set out in the Criminal Code. “

Ron Segev, founding partner of Vancouver-based gambling and betting law firm Segev LLP, raised similar concerns earlier this year in blog posts and at industry seminars.

He said in an interview that a potential legal challenge could come from someone like a supplier who has invested in their business based on the current model in which the OLG has a monopoly on gambling in the province.

“I would really like to see this model evolve successfully,” said Segev, highlighting the potential economic benefits, especially well-paying jobs in the industry.

But he added that he was disappointed that Ontario had not pressured the federal government to change the wording of the Criminal Code to allow provinces to simply “authorize” gambling operators.

Gray said the Ministry of the Attorney General welcomed the Auditor General’s report and that the province was “committed to creating a safe, regulated and competitive online gambling market to help protect consumers.”

“Ontario has carefully designed the online gaming model to achieve this goal in accordance with the Criminal Code requirements that apply to Ontario,” said Gray.

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