Members of the daily fantasy industry are mobilizing their fanbase in Ontario in an attempt to lobby lawmakers into changing rules related to online sports betting that prompted a DFS exodus from Canada’s most populous province.
A group called Fantasy Sports For All — “a collaboration between daily fantasy sports providers,” including DraftKings and FanDuel — has organized a campaign to email members of the Ontario legislature and ask for tweaks to provincial gaming rules.
“For more than 7 years, hundreds of thousands of Ontario sports fans had been enjoying a fun and interactive way to participate with the sports, teams and players that they loved,” the group's website says. “If you want to again have the opportunity to play daily fantasy sports in Ontario, you need to contact your lawmakers now!”
Hey Ontario! Are you upset you can't play paid fantasy contests with your favorite operators for this weekend's NFL games? Send a message to your elected officials and tell them to bring fantasy sports back to Ontario! https://t.co/2c1kuIpoR5 pic.twitter.com/09EEPDkaHY— FtsySports4All (@FtsySports4All) September 23, 2022
The Fantasy Sports For All website includes a form for players to contact elected officials in Ontario that contains the following default message:
“As a constituent and die-hard sports fan, I am writing to you today to ask that you protect my right to play daily fantasy sports in Ontario.
I went to log on to my daily fantasy sports app for the start of NFL and was shocked to find out that these contests are no longer offered in Ontario. I don’t understand why that would happen and I am strongly opposed to any effort that would take away my right to play daily fantasy sports.
This issue is extremely important to me and all of my friends and family who play daily fantasy sports. Please follow-up to find out why this has happened and how we can fix it!”
The Fantasy Sports For All campaign is being supported by DFS influencers and by the Fantasy Sports & Gaming Association (FSGA), a group that advocates on behalf of players and operators.
There has thus far been a “decent response” to the grassroots campaign, but no sign yet that Ontario regulators are planning to make any changes in the near future, said Peter Schoenke, president of fantasy-sports website RotoWire and head of government affairs for the FSGA.
“Creating more awareness about the negative changes for fantasy sports is the first step to get regulators and government officials to take some action” though, Schoenke added in an email.
Ontario’s DFS scene was turned upside down by the province’s decision to open a competitive market for internet casino gambling and online sports betting.
The market's launch in April allowed private-sector operators to legally take bets in the province in a first-of-its-kind regulatory framework for Canada, but its side effects included an exodus of paid fantasy sports companies.
So, while there are now more than 20 legal online sportsbooks that have launched within Ontario’s new regulatory framework, the options for paid fantasy contests are much, much fewer. Although at least one company has hung on in the province, OwnersBox, the rest of the paid-fantasy sector has been hollowed out.
The main reasons for this are that Ontario regulations treat “pay-to-play” fantasy sports as gambling and that all iGaming participants must be located within the province, curbing the potential size of player pools and the revenue DFS operators can earn.
As a result, operators such as DraftKings and FanDuel blocked access to their DFS contests before launching their online sportsbooks in Ontario. Players could bet on sides and totals and props, but passionate fantasy fans were suddenly shut out of a popular pastime. The dearth of DFS options has persisted into the NFL's regular season, which is a crucial time of year for fantasy lovers.
It's strictly business
This, though, is a business decision that operators have made for themselves, according to Ontario regulators. The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) has said paid fantasy sports are allowed under its iGaming rules, which include a $100,000 licensing fee for operators and a revenue-sharing split that reportedly entitles the province to a 25% cut of a company's receipts.
“Regulated operators who have been registered by the AGCO and entered into an operating agreement with (government agency) iGaming Ontario are permitted to offer pay-to-play fantasy sports once they go live in Ontario’s new igaming market,” the AGCO says on its website. “Choosing whether or not to offer pay-to-play fantasy sports is an individual business decision that rests with registered operators.”
The regulator adds that it understands operators “are not currently offering pay-to-play fantasy sports primarily because of their inability to allow individuals not located in Ontario to access the regulated Ontario offering (i.e. pooled liquidity),” and directs questions about the issue to the Ministry of the Attorney General.
In the meantime, Ontario DFS aficionados do have OwnersBox available to them, which offers "SuperFlex" DFS contests, among other things.
“We want to let you know that OwnersBox will continue to operate in Ontario and provide ways for you to play in fantasy sports contests,” the company said in April. “OwnersBox is actively working with authorities on the application of these rules and how they will impact Ontario sports fans, specifically fantasy sports users.”