The regulator of online sports betting sites in Canada’s most populous province says operators must follow Ontario’s standards for internet gambling — even on their way out.
Still, while the rules for Ontario sports betting should ensure that customers get the money currently in their accounts, it appears unlikely they will force an operator to grade a good-looking futures bet as a winner or likely winner.
Those regulations may be of growing interest to gamblers after Coolbet recently announced that it would shut down its website and mobile app in Ontario by the end of the day on April 3. As of Wednesday, the operator has already closed its online casino and sportsbook in the province, although it will remain available in the “grey market” in other parts of Canada.
The rules that applied to Coolbet for its time in the province will apply to its exit, according to the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO). The regulator told Covers in an email that the province’s iGaming standards must be met “for all situations where the relationship between the operator and a player is terminated,” including planned shutdowns and business closures.
“For example, the AGCO requires that player funds be handled appropriately and that players be permitted to withdraw funds from their account in accurate and complete fashion as soon as possible, subject to verification and appropriate authorization,” the commission’s communications team said in an email. “Further, where player accounts are deactivated, players must be able to recover the balance of their account owing to them.”
In addition, the AGCO speaks with operators on their way out of the Ontario market to ensure that departure “does not in any way, undermine the integrity of gaming in the province,” the regulator said.
Yet the requirements for settling bets are a bit more subjective than the cut-and-dried rules for returning money to customers. That might be unfortunate news for bettors holding a digital ticket for a potentially winning futures bet that won't settle until after an operator goes out of business or exits the regulated market.
Posts on social media suggest there are Coolbet users in that exact predicament. Nevertheless, the operator has shuttered its sportsbook in Ontario's regulated market and said that pending futures and parlay wagers would be voided and refunded.
“The processing and redemption of all bets must be conducted fairly and honestly,” the AGCO told Covers.
Coolbet's sportsbook is now closed in Ontario: pic.twitter.com/NNK3AHjAin— Geoff Zochodne (@GeoffZochodne) March 23, 2023
Bettors could benefit from knowing the rules, as Coolbet is one of just many operators now in Ontario, which launched a competitive market for internet gambling in April of 2022. The competitive nature of that market means other operators may someday follow Coolbet’s example and pull out of the province, throwing their customers for a loop.
Therefore, knowing what sort of obligations operators have to bettors in both entering and exiting the iGaming market is important. According to the agency legally responsible for the market, iGaming Ontario (iGO), those requirements include advance notice of a shutdown and a return of customer funds. Bookmakers must sign operating agreements with iGO before they can launch in Ontario's regulated iGaming market.
“iGO works closely with operators that have decided to exit the Ontario igaming market to ensure that they make their players aware of their decision to do so, and that they satisfy all terms of their contractual agreement with iGO including that player funds are paid out,” the agency told Covers in an email.