A handful of internet-gaming operators have received a key approval from the Ontario sports betting regulator after the watchdog warned would-be licensees that they needed to drop any unregulated activities in the province by Halloween.
Ontario launched a regulated market for internet casinos and online sports betting sites in April, which followed residents of Canada’s most populous province wagering for years with operators licensed outside the province or abroad — the so-called “grey market.”
The move allowed previously “grey” operators to transition from the unregulated market into the new regulated one, and to take their customers with them. In a first for Canada, Ontario’s iGaming market now has more than 30 private-sector operators legally taking bets, several of which were previously unregulated by the province.
The 'grey' stay
However, grey-market activity persisted in Ontario. Some of that was with operators that had just applied for provincial approvals or had received only part of what they needed to launch in the regulated market as well. Bookmakers need a registration from the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) and to execute an operating agreement with iGaming Ontario, a government agency, before they can join the regulated market.
The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) then decided that the “transition period” for grey operators would end on Halloween. Several operators have now received an iGaming registration from the regulator since October 31, when the new rule came into effect that requires “grey market” activities to cease.
“This new standard establishes that operators and gaming-related suppliers that are currently active in the unregulated market in Ontario (or have agreements and arrangements with those in the unregulated market in Ontario) must end their activities in the unregulated market to avoid jeopardizing their eligibility for registration,” the AGCO said in October. “This requirement extends to applicants for registration in Ontario’s igaming scheme.”
TonyBet and beyond
The AGCO said nearly 20 operators had exited the unregulated market shortly after the standard came into effect, which was in “direct response” to the regulation. And, since then, the regulator has issued five registrations to new operators that will allow them to participate in the province’s regulated iGaming market once they sign a contract with iGaming Ontario as well.
Some of those operators are now getting their ducks in a row to launch in Canada’s most populous province. One is Betsson AB-owned TonyBet, a Baltic-based bookmaker that was issued its iGaming operator registration by the AGCO on December 5.
The site listed on the AGCO registry for TonyBet said on Wednesday that it is under maintenance.
"We are aiming to be up and running as soon as possible with all your favourite games and sports offerings," it added.
More registrations, and, ultimately, operators in the regulated market, are likely.
“A key objective of the AGCO has been to move igaming operators and gaming-related suppliers into Ontario’s regulated market as quickly and as seamlessly as possible,” the regulator noted in October. “To support this objective, the AGCO established a process for existing operators and gaming-related suppliers in the unregulated market to move into the regulated market without causing significant interruption to their Ontario customer base.”