Ontario’s online gambling marketplace set to launch April 4

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Ontario has unveiled a spring launch date for its new online gambling marketplace to cheers from local gamblers vying to enter – but a casino giant has slammed it while a First Nation has promised a legal challenge .

Beginning April 4, the province will allow private gaming websites that have qualified through a licensing process to begin accepting bets. IGaming Ontario, the new subsidiary of the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario that will lead the market, announced the date on Friday.

The news that the market will go ahead as planned comes after Great Canadian Gaming launched a last-minute lobbying effort earlier this month, arguing that the government should scrap the launch and instead give land-based casinos an exclusive window. two years on online games. .

But Toronto-based sports and esports betting company Rivalry Corp. said it supports iGaming Ontario’s decision. Rivalry, which holds an Isle of Man gambling license and already operates in other jurisdictions, said it has applied to become a licensed operator in Ontario.

“We are very pleased to hear that Ontario residents will have access to safe and regulated online gaming,” Rivalry CEO Steven Salz said.

Ontario is poised to be the first province to operate a private market for online betting and with predictions that it could be one of the biggest gaming markets in North America, many will follow closely. to see how it goes.

Gambling has long been illegal in Canada unless run by provincial or territorial authorities, many of which now run large lottery and casino operations and offer online options.

But dozens of major gambling websites that are unregulated here have also been operating largely unhindered for decades, and reports suggest they already control a large share of the market.

The province has said it wants to convince some of these gray market players to operate under the new regime, capturing new tax revenue while imposing responsible gambling standards and money laundering protections.

Ontario’s Auditor General warned last year that the new model could be subject to legal challenges, and in a statement Friday, the Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation (MSIFN) said it intended to “challenge the province’s iGaming program in court.”

The First Nation, which is located in what is now Port Perry and home to the Great Blue Heron casino, said the government has not held formal consultations with Indigenous governments on the impact of the new gambling model.

“Today’s announcement by the Ford government is a slap in the face to First Nations and reduces their promises of reconciliation to a joke,” said Kelly LaRocca, Chief of MSIFN.

Great Canadian, which is owned by US private equity fund Apollo Global Management and operates the Woodbine and Pickering casinos among others, commissioned a report late last year concluding that the new regime would result in lost tax revenue and jobs in casinos.

Great Canadian Gaming Corp. CEO Tony Rodio said in a statement Friday that the new regime “falls short of offering” “fair and competitive rules of play.”

NorthStar Gaming also welcomed the news on Friday. NorthStar is the gaming business of NordStar, an investment company run by Jordan Bitove and Paul Rivett, which also owns Torstar, the owner of this newspaper and other media properties.

NorthStar has announced plans to launch an online betting brand and take sports betting. He said he entered into an advertising and marketing services agreement with Torstar.

Michael Moskowitz, CEO of NorthStar, said Friday’s announcement is an important step for the province that “gives Ontarians more choice and flexibility in online betting and gaming, which gaming enthusiasts have been asking for ever since. many years”.

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