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Launch Day is here for Ontario‘s expanded iGaming marketplace. Many online gambling operators are already taking bets.
Before today, some of those brands launching legal sites were gray market operators. At that time, only the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) was the regulated entity taking Ontario online casino bets. The gray market online gambling operators were unregulated.
Ontario is the first province in Canada to expand its online gambling marketplace beyond lottery monopolies.
Now, former gray market operators and some well-known European and US online casino brands are joining OLG in the expanded regulated market in Ontario.
AGCO approval is a prerequisite for companies to enter into operating agreements with iGaming Ontario (iGO). As of Friday, regulator Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) had given 27 online gambling operators this approval. If you want the full list, scroll to the bottom of this article or click here.
Live Launch Day updates
Throughout the day, OPR will be updating this article.
Apr. 4, 2 p.m.
Royal Panda is the only operator not yet live that was on iGO’s list to launch today.
However, that product will launch soon, Daniel Valiollahi told Online Poker Report.
Valiollahi is the director of communications and public affairs for Swedish LeoVegas Group. The business with operations in Malta is the parent company of LeoVegas and Royal Panda. Both brands are on iGO’s Launch Day list.
Valiollahi told OPR minutes ago:
“LeoVegas is live and accepting players as we speak and Royal Panda will ‘soon’ go live!”
Apr. 4, 1 p.m.
Unibet‘s app is live.
Some online gambling aspirants are complaining on Twitter about not being able to sign up quickly on popular apps, including FanDuel.
FanDuel also announced that it entered a content partnership with TSN.
Meanwhile, operators seem to have largely gotten the memo from AGCO. However, affiliate marketers who have deals with those brands appear to be the main violators of the marketing and advertising rules. They’re using language like “bonus,” “welcome bonus,” “promo” and more.
Evolution, the company primarily known in North America for its live dealer offerings, says it will be working with 888, BetMGM, LeoVegas, Rush Street Interactive and theScore Bet. The online casino services it will provide those operators include “online live casino games, games shows, Evolution First Person table games and game shows, as well as NetEnt and Red Tiger online slots,” the Malta-based vendor announced today.
Swedish LeoVegas Group issued a statement today about the remaining operators set to go live, LeoVegas and RoyalPanda. The announcement said the group was excited for its brands to launch in the expanded marketplace:
“Canada accounted for 13% of Group revenue in January 2022, with approximately 35% of Canadian revenue generated in Ontario.”
Payment platform Paysafe is another beneficiary of the regulated market. It has been supplying payment solutions to the lottery site OLG.ca since its launch in 2015, but will now get to work with private operators in the province as well. Its client list for Ontario already includes theScore Bet and PointsBet.
Zak Cutler, CEO of North America iGaming at Paysafe, said:
“Today’s launch of the new, expanded Ontarian iGaming market marks a milestone for the North American industry and our global company, which has its origins in Canada. Ontario will likely rival the largest U.S. state iGaming jurisdictions when it reaches maturity, and we look forward to facilitating payments for operators and their Ontarian customers to help the market grow to its full potential.”
Apr. 4, 11:30 a.m.
Brands continue to launch, with Rivalry COO and Co-Founder Kevin Wimer tweeting a few minutes ago:
“We aren’t the biggest name/brand on the list but @RivalryGLHF is home grown with Toronto roots/founders and pumped to be live on day 1! 💪”
Rivalry is mainly an esports operator that will be highlighting its Canadian roots, but it is licensed in Isle of Man, according to its 9 a.m. press release about the Ontario launch. It also offers online casino and sports betting.
Apr. 4, 10:30 a.m.
PointsBet, a brand known for its points betting offering in online sports betting, is unable to offer that immediately in Ontario.
Patrick Eichner, PointsBet’s senior director of communications, told Online Poker Report:
“[PointsBet] can confirm we will not have PointsBetting at the start — that format is not approved locally — we are working with the regulators and hope to be able to offer at some point down the road. But understandably, they’d like to take a walk before we run approach here.”
Apr. 4, 9:30 a.m.
The Interactive Advertising Bureau of Canada (IAB Canada) emailed members a notice about its iGaming Resource Centre page, which is designed to help those trying to understand Ontario’s marketing and advertising guidelines.
So far, the operators active on Launch Day include:
- Proline (OLG)
iGO lists these operators as slated to go live today:
Apr. 4, 9:00 a.m.
DraftKings isn’t yet on the AGCO-approved list of operators, which is unusual. In the US, DraftKings tends to be one of the first to launch.
Another reason its absence is unusual is DraftKings laid the groundwork months ago for an entrance and recently closed down its daily fantasy sports (DFS) product in the province. All of this signaled the intention to enter the Ontario market.
Meanwhile, PokerStars is continuing business as usual for the time being, and seems to believe that it will be able to remain in the global pool at least until the Spring Championship of Online Poker (SCOOP) concludes. It’s unclear when it will make the transition to the regulated, ring-fenced market as originally expected.
Apr. 4, 8:30 a.m.
Other operators already active in Ontario include theScore, Coolbet and FanDuel.
Some former gray market operators may also have made the transition to the provincial market but without much fanfare. Unibet, at least, has temporarily disabled registration for Ontario, so it does not appear to have made the transition immediately.
In terms of suppliers, the sites that are live so far include games from IGT, Light & Wonder and High5.
Apr. 4, 8 a.m.
The official time of launch was 12:01 a.m. ET. So far, we’ve been able to confirm that Caesars, BetMGM and BetRivers are live in Ontario. Notably, BetMGM’s offering already includes far more live dealer casino games than it has on any of its US sites.
Bet365 had users downloading a new Canada-specific app weeks before the market launch, and has attempted to make its transition. Unfortunately, there seem to be technical difficulties for existing users. There are multiple reports on Twitter of users logging in to find their balance at zero, their account settings restored to the default, etc. This suggests a problem transferring account data to the new servers. The company says it’s working on a solution but users are understandably upset by their seemingly missing funds.
Launch Day background information
On its site, iGO told operators:
“Online casinos, poker and sports betting are hugely popular in Ontario and across Canada. While there are only estimates of the actual market size, some presume it to be a $1 billion market for iGaming.”
That will likely mean provincial taxes on operators will generate C$375 million a year in revenue for Ontario’s coffers, Online Poker Report estimated.
A few operators AGCO already allowed to launch won’t be doing so today. The companies announced before today that their apps will instead be online in “early April.” They include Caesars Sportsbook and WSOP.CA. The latter online poker operator is Las Vegas-based Caesars Entertainment‘s brand, to be powered by Isle of Man-headquartered GGPoker in Ontario.
Most of the 27 operators ready to go represent single AGCO applications and approvals. For instance, BetMGM is launching BetMGM products. Chicago-based Rush Street Interactive (RSI) will launch its BetRivers brand.
However, just two companies represent 10 of the approved online gambling brands.
- The Bwin and Party brands belong to London-based Electraworks Maple Limited, a subsidiary of Isle of Man-headquartered Entain. Entain is, of course, already on the list for BetMGM, its joint venture with Las Vegas-based MGM Resorts International.
- Eight approvals belong to Malta-headquartered White Hat Gaming.: Casigo, Casimba, Dream Vegas, FireVegas, Gate 777, Hello Casino, Jackpot Village and Playzee.
Surprisingly, Boston-based DraftKings isn’t yet on the AGCO list. It’s one of the top online gambling operators in the US. DraftKings also began preparing for the Ontario launch months ago.
Things to watch for on Launch Day
During the average Launch Day, there are kerfuffles.
Apps don’t work, online gamblers complain and general chaos ensues.
In Ontario, at least one of those situations happened early.
Advertising regulation confusion
Before Launch Day, Australian operator PointsBet had a snafu that resulted in a tweeted AGCO correction.
In its social media marketing, PointsBet appeared to violate AGCO’s marketing and advertising rules that say operators can’t “communicate gambling inducements, bonuses and credits … except on an operator’s gaming site and through direct advertising and marketing, after receiving active player consent.”
Words like “risk-free bet,” “welcome bonus,” “free money” and “no risk” are verboten in external marketing.
On March 19, a Canadian affiliate marketer asked AGCO about a PointsBet tweet that said:
“Have you signed up for your FREE welcome offer yet?
“Don’t miss out. Sign up today: pointsbet.ca”
On Thursday, AGCO replied to the affiliate:
“To clarify, restrictions on bonus advertising also includes advertising the availability of an offer.”
The tweet the affiliate screen-grabbed no longer appears on the @PointsBetCanada account, but one with the exact image and wording was pinned on Friday night.
It’s dated March 23 and says:
“April 4th is coming, and we’re excited to get going
“Don’t miss out. Sign up today: pointsbet.ca”
Marketing beginning in earnest
In order to get Ontarians to sign up to bet with the operators, they’ll need to let online gamblers know they exist.
The PointsBet tweet shows operators can still use familiar marketing techniques. While the message doesn’t use “inducements, bonuses and credits,” it does use the marketing technique called “fear of missing out” or FOMO.
Ontarians will also notice a lot of brand awareness marketing soon. However, PointsBet began that work long ago. The operator opened its @PointsBetCanada account in March 2021 and began tweeting in July 2021, by announcing the appointment of PointsBet Canada CEO Scott Vanderwel.
Full list of approved operators
Here are the 27 companies and websites that AGCO has approved for the Ontario market. Those we know to have launched are in bold:
- 888.ca (888casino.ca, 888poker.ca, 888sport.ca)
- BetMGM Casino, BetMGM Poker, BetMGM Sportsbook
- Caesars Sportsbook
- Dream Vegas
- FanDuel Casino, FanDuel Sportsbook
- Gate 777
- Hello Casino
- Jackpot Village
- OLG (pre-existing provincial lottery offering, not through iGO)
- Party Casino, Party Poker, Party Sports
- Royal Panda
- theScore Bet