Into the Void: Online Sportsbooks Required to Settle Ontario Bets Before Launching in Province

Prospective provincial bookmakers "must settle any bets by players located or otherwise placed in Ontario before that Operator can operate in the new authorized and regulated market in Ontario."

Last Updated: Mar 23, 2022 7:40 PM ET Read Time: 3 min
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Online sportsbooks planning to launch in Ontario’s new internet gambling market must first settle any action they've taken from players in the province — with at least one operator now working on a way to ease any customer concerns.

The new iGaming market in Ontario is scheduled to go live on April 4, which is when operators with all the necessary regulatory approvals can start legally taking bets in Canada's most populous province. Until then, the only legal source of online gambling will remain the government-owned Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. 

When it launches, though, Ontario’s iGaming framework will be unique in Canada, as it will allow private-sector operators of online sportsbooks and casinos to compete against each other and OLG for business. Fifteen non-OLG operators were on track to participate as of Wednesday afternoon, with more expected in the days and weeks to come. 

But one of the boxes that must be checked before an operator can go live is the execution of an operating agreement with iGaming Ontario, a government agency. And, according to iGaming Ontario (as reported by Covers on Tuesday), operators that have already taken bets in the province and want to join the new market will first have to put any outstanding action to bed.

“An Operator must settle any bets by players located or otherwise placed in Ontario before that Operator can operate in the new authorized and regulated market in Ontario,” an FAQ on iGaming Ontario’s website says.

In an email to Covers, iGaming Ontario confirmed this requirement will apply to futures bets. 

“Players must create a new digital wallet with an operator’s website under the regulated market terms and conditions to continue playing on that site,” the agency added. “Operators may provide pre-existing players with access to their pre-existing player account after going live in the new market for the purpose of account management, including withdrawing funds.”

It's tricky

The settlement requirement would apply to operators that may already be overseen by an offshore or out-of-province entity but that are aiming to enter Ontario’s regulated market. It would not have any bearing on futures bets placed with OLG or an operator that isn't planning on doing business within Ontario's new regulatory framework.

Still, the requirement could raise the ire of customers sitting on rosy futures bets that may be voided by bookmakers intending to switch from the “grey market” to the Ontario-regulated one. 

(On the other hand, bettors holding tickets that look like losers could breathe a sigh of relief.)

At any rate, the condition could affect numerous punters, as many millions of dollars are estimated to be wagered every year by Ontarians with offshore and out-of-province bookmakers. Some of those bets could now be voided by sportsbooks moving themselves and their customers over to Ontario’s regulated market. 

Game planning

Sportsbook operators are starting to get their ducks in a row when it comes to the settlement requirement. 

Kris Abbott, head of North America for Coolbet (which is one of the 15 iGaming operators approved thus far by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario), called it an “unfortunate reality,” but said there has to be a line drawn between previous and future operations. 

“We’re really excited about the opportunity to work under the iGaming Ontario license and at the same time we want to make sure that our customers are made whole on any bets they had with our brand,” Abbott told Covers. “We’re working on a solution for that that should be communicated as soon as possible.”

Unibet also plans on launching in Ontario's iGaming market and says that it will block customers in the province from accessing its current Canadian website. Instead, Unibet says Ontario-based players will be able to use a province-specific site, through which the operator will offer sports betting and casino gambling. 

Customers can opt-in and allow their Unibet account and funds to be migrated to the Ontario site. Before then, withdrawal requests can be made until the end of the business day on April 3. 

“Any pending bets will be closed and funds issued to wallet prior to your account migration,” Unibet says. “This will be processed prior to 4th April.”

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