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October 5, 2021
With the passing of Bill C-218 in June 2021, the province of Ontario became able to move ahead with their plans to develop an open & uncapped market to license online sports betting providers. With this, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) formally announced the birth of iGaming Ontario, a new branch of their organisation that would oversee the licensing & operations of online gaming & sports betting sites for the Ontario marketplace (which includes esports).
Interestingly, the AGCO will not prevent their newly licensed providers from serving other Canadian provinces from the so-called 'grey market'. This crucial decision will bring dozens of formerly 'grey' brands to the table and ensure that a huge number of existing Ontario sports betting account holders at previously 'grey' betting sites will be on-boarded to the legal system once licenses are granted and the market opens. So if you already have an account with an online sportsbook, they may already be in the process of applying for their license to become a fully legal Ontario sports betting provider.
However, the AGCO will mandate that their licensed providers ensure that their affiliate marketing partners only include properly licensed providers on any pages that are targeted to speak to an Ontario audience. In other words, licensed Ontario brands will not be allowed to mix with unlicensed brands.
As we've discussed elsewhere on SNBET, many of these companies want to be licensed where ever they can be in Canada - but these companies can only apply for licenses in jurisdictions where they are available. Until then, many of these providers will continue to serve Canadians outside Ontario from the 'grey market'.
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Ontario's legal sports betting and iGaming market will open on Monday April 4, 2022. Surely, all the completely new entrants to Ontario, like PointsBet, BetMGM, BetRivers, FanDuel, theScore Bet, DraftKings among others will try to be ready on this date. However, if a given company has been serving Ontario in the 'grey market' and is in the process of getting their license, like Betsafe, bet365, Betway, ComeOn!, BetVictor, Casumo among others, there is no real rush to be 'licensed' on April 4.
After all, adults in Ontario can play at any of these sites right now, before the market opens, and then have their account automatically shifted to the legal system once the company is officially licensed. This means that if you wanted to play with an Ontario betting site that you knew would become licensed, well, plainly - you can. There is no need to wait and miss out on March Madness or the Champions League knockout stages.
The answer is simple, its population size and the wealth of that population. With a population of nearly 15 million people, if Ontario was a US state, it would rank as the 5th largest after New York, but ahead of Pennsylvania. Included in this population is of course Toronto, by many measures, the 3rd most populous and important metropolitan area within the US and Canada, behind only New York City and Los Angeles.
As a hub for finance, insurance, real estate, innovation and technology, the Greater Toronto Area is full of wealthy sports fans and is home to professional teams in the NHL, NBA, MLB and MLS. These fans will be the customers, and the teams will become vehicles to market various sports betting brands through partnership deals.
In August of 2021, noted Canadian gaming lawyer Ron Segev authored an article that was published in iGB. In this piece, Segev suggested that the 'hands off' licensing approach by Ontario and its regulatory bodies could be viewed as illegal by federal law. Essentially, the operation of sports betting or gaming establishments in Canada is illegal unless operated by the provinces. The provinces must be the ones that "conduct and manage" this business. Segev also advocates that rather than create its own regime, it should have lobbied the federal government to create a truly national iGaming regime.
In September 2021, the Canadian Gaming Association CEO, Paul Burns appeared on a podcast with gambling compliance firm Vixeo to discuss the Ontario iGaming situation. In it, Burns clarifies that the iGaming Ontario legal framework is being constructed with great care by the Province's lawyers to ensure that it complies with Canadian federal law, and the Province is not left to be defined as an "arm's length" party in this relationship, which might make the entire construct an illegal one.
As part of the licensing process, the province will essentially be striking commercial partnerships to go into business with their iGaming licensees. It will not be a pure licensee and licensor relationship. Shared bank accounts will be created for the operator/provincial winnings to be deposited at regular intervals. The Province will be able to withdraw their prescribed share of the winnings from these shared accounts on a regular basis.
With the opening of the Ontario iGaming market slated for early 2022, many sportsbook brands will look to advertise their brand through partnerships with online media companies, through traditional media advertising on TV, billboards and radio, or even with professional team sponsorship deals. Rules surrounding the advertising of these betting brands in the Ontario market stipulate that ads cannot be used to promote 'inducements' or 'incentives' like 'free bets' or 'deposit bonuses' or 'welcome offers' or 'bonus codes'. In other words, bonuses will not be advertised broadly.
While legal Ontario betting sites will be able to offer these promotions on their own platforms to their new & existing customers if they wish, even affiliate marketers that run 'sportsbook review' or 'odds comparison' sites will not be able to advertise bonuses or credits. All advertisement of such inducements is completely prohibited in Ontario.
Given that the regulators of Ontario will not prevent gaming companies from serving other provinces from the 'grey market', we expect many 'grey' brands to apply for licenses to become fully legal Ontario betting sites. These bookmaker brands will be able to on-board their existing Ontario players to the legal, regulated system - while continuing to serve players in other Canadian provinces from their 'grey market' domains.
This means that much of the 'land rush' for market share in Ontario is already over and done with, as so many Ontarian bettors were already acquired by these 'grey market' sportsbooks over the past 20+ years. Thus, the largest of the soon-to-be-former 'grey market' operators will become the dominant legal betting brands for Ontario. These betting brands won't be starting in the legal market from zero, they will be starting with thousands, even hundreds of thousands of customers in some cases.
Daily Fantasy Sports brands FanDuel and DraftKings will also have a head start in the Ontario market. These gaming brands already have existing databases of Ontario DFS players. Many of these DFS customers will be excited to make the transition over to the respective Ontario sportsbook vertical, when allowed to do so. This existing Ontario customer base plus their brand recognition in the province and large North American marketing budget will ensure they take a substantial portion of the Ontario iGaming pie.
Once the advertising & marketing rules are clear, all Ontario iGaming brands will be able to advertise and create marketing partnerships if they wish in order to acquire the players that have been waiting for a fully legal system of Ontario sports betting providers. However, the dominant incumbent formerly 'grey' bookmakers and DFS brands have a distinct advantage in two ways over the completely new entrants to the Ontario market: word of mouth advertising and existing affiliate marketing partnerships.
New brand entrants to the Ontario market (PointsBet, BetMGM, BetRivers and the like) will have almost no word of mouth marketing results, since they will have no existing customers in the market at the time of launch. However, there will be significant word of mouth advertising results for the formerly 'grey' brands as their long-time formerly 'grey' customers will soon be able to talk to friends and family about their favourite online sportsbook now being a fully 'legal' provider. Questions will be asked like 'which betting site are you with? They're legal in Ontario now right?' or 'How are the odds at ______? Do you like their platform?'
Since the incumbent formerly 'grey' and DFS providers already have so many Ontario customers, they will be named as the answers to these questions, and these operators will acquire many new customers at no cost as a result - which is a massive advantage over the new market entrants. If various companies have 25,000 to 100,000, or even more existing Ontario customers at the time of the legal launch date in 2022, you can see how this group of operators will only continue to dominate the Ontario market with the highest rates of new player acquisitions, given the power of word of mouth marketing.
Furthermore, the incumbent formerly 'grey' Canadian brands already have established affiliate marketing partnerships with Canada-focused online publishers that run 'sportsbook review' and 'odds comparison' websites. These incumbent sportsbook brands will thus make quick and easy transitions onto most of the new Ontario-focused marketing pages. Their already well-established brands will be well-promoted on these third-party publisher sites and gain new customers as a result. The new brand entrants to Ontario like BetMGM, BetRivers and PointsBet among others will need to work fast to establish marketing deals with key affiliate publishers well ahead of the 2022 market launch in order to catch up to the leading pack in the race for whatever player acquisition 'land rush' remains.
Completely new brands to the legal Ontario market - those that do not even operate in the USA, or those that do so as a lower tier brand will be at a distinct disadvantage in the province, as they are starting in the market from a point of zero existing customers to on-board (meaning no revenue and no word of mouth advertising from the outset), zero brand heritage and zero relationships with affiliate marketers that can help to acquire new players.
Ontario is likely to be the most competitive legal market in the world with perhaps 50+ legal providers. Entering the market with all these 'zeroes' does not bode well. Several brands that are essentially completely new sportsbook operators that enter Ontario in 2022, likely will not be around in 2025.
What brands fall into this category? We would point to three brands that will be entering Ontario. First, 'NorthStar Bets' is the betting brand for the Toronto Star. We break down the outlook for this venture here in its own section.
Secondly, we would say that 'MaximBet' is in this category. MaximBet is licensed in Colorado and hopes to launch in several other US states - but also from Malta. So while they say they are going to launch in Canada in 2022, we cannot be sure if they mean to get an Ontario license, or if they will serve Canada from the 'grey market' jurisdiction of Malta. Regardless, though they signed with a top B2B sportsbook provider in Kambi, MaximBet has no brand heritage in Canada, so we suspect that they will seriously struggle to acquire players. They will also bring essentially zero players from their 'grey market' operations.
Thirdly, we would say that Australian bookmaker, 'CrossBet', is a brand that will struggle in Ontario. In February 2022, a gaming supplier noted that they would be the sportsbook platform for 'CrossBet' in Ontario. Assuming CrossBet does gain their license to operate in Ontario, they will be among the bottom-ranked brands in terms of players served and new players acquired, as they will on-board zero players from a grey-market operation, and have no relationships with key affiliates, and likely have an insignificant marketing budget.
Lastly, in the early rounds of AGCO licensing, we saw that UK-based bookie 'Fitzdares' received its license. Fitzdares has zero brand heritage in Canada and is not visible in any US broadcasts that bleed into Canada. We have no clue what their marketing strategy will be, but with so much competition, they are sure to be lost in the mix.
The AGCO has published its sport and event betting integrity guidelines for its licensed operators. In it we can find that betting on 'Minor Sports' is prohibited. In particular, the OHL is named as a league for which betting in Ontario will be prohibited. We can thus also assume that WHL and QMJHL betting will also be prohibited. From the 'grey market', many of the providers that we outline below do offer this kind of CHL betting. At least within the framework of their licensed Ontario offering, they will need to remove this coverage. Why is this the case? One of the main points within the integrity guidelines stipulates that the majority of event participants should be 18 years of age or older, which thus rules out Canadian major junior hockey events. We will have to wait to see if this will affect the ability for Ontarians to bet on the IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship, which is largely viewed as a tournament of 19-year-olds.
This question is not as open and shut as some might have thought. For example, in their recent bouts of sports betting regulation, both Germany and the Netherlands essentially concluded that esports events should not be treated as traditional sporting events. The Netherlands will allow its licensed betting sites to offer esports coverage, but the given esports event organizers must demonstrate a level of governance which is on par with traditional sporting events. As a result, if you visit sports betting websites for Germany or the Netherlands, you will notice that esports events are not currently available for wagering. (You may need your IP address to be set in either respective country to see this.)
However, it appears that Ontario esports betting will be allowed. Esports events seem as though they will be viewed like any other sporting event. At the top of the AGCO final sport and event standards for igaming, we can see that this is the case. So unless something changes, it appears that legal esports betting in Ontario will be available at market launch in 2022. We have reviewed the offerings in this regard from each of the top operators that are coming to the Ontario market in order to identify the best Ontario esports betting sites.
Once the vast majority of legal Ontario betting sites are live when the market opens in early 2022, popular payment methods like PayPal will become available for use by players to facilitate account deposits or withdrawals. Previously, since online sports betting was not fully and completely legal in Canada, PayPal would not offer its service in order to facilitate payments to offshore betting companies. It has only been available in jurisdictions where sports betting is a completely legal activity for both the player and the operator.
Previous to the passing of bill C-218 to allow single-event sports betting in Canada, the only sports betting platform in Canada that did offer it was the BCLC's PlayNow.com betting site that exists for players that are resident in British Columbia. Popular bank debit methods like Interac, iDebit, Instadebit and Citadel among others will certainly continue to be available for players in Ontario as they have been for many years.
There are several reasons to choose an officially licensed & legal Ontario online sportsbook.
1) Proper regulatory oversight. With an Ontario license, all providers have had to undergo significant product testing to ensure fairness and compliance with Ontario standards. Furthermore, you know for sure that you will get paid on a win and that if you have a consumer problem or concern, the AGCO and iGaming Ontario will be there to ensure your complaint is met with proper attention. Although many of the coming Ontario brands were highly reputable brands as operated from the so-called 'grey market', as they will be licensed officially for Ontario, you should have all the peace of mind that you could need if you might not have trusted them previously.
2) Licensed sportsbooks remit taxes & license fees back to Ontario. The license fee for iGaming Ontario is $100,000. All legal providers will have paid this fee, plus they must share their related gaming revenues with the province. If from Ontario, you play with an unlicensed provider, none of that company's revenue will return to your home jurisdiction for reinvestment. If you care about things like local infrastructure projects, healthcare, education or just about anything else, know that these officially licensed betting providers will be returning money to Ontario. Unlicensed providers keep all the profits for themselves.
3) Player safety: iGaming Ontario will mandate that its players universally have access to robust Responsible Gaming tools like deposit limits and other tools to help you enjoy online sports betting in a safer manner and help you stay in control of your spending, when you might otherwise let your enthusiasm get the better of you.
We'll outline the brands that have publically talked about applying for licenses to become legal Ontario betting sites with links to where you can read their thoughts on the matter. We then also provide intel, analysis and predictions about the brands for which there is little-to-no public information on their intentions regarding the Ontario legal market.
|Eligible iGames conducted & managed by iGaming Ontario are only available to those physically present in the Province of Ontario. If you are outside Ontario, you will play at the main 'dot-com' sites based in 'offshore' gaming jurisdictions.|
Betsson AB of Sweden is the parent company of Betsafe and several other significant sports betting and iGaming brands. Betsson and its brands have been serving Canada in the 'grey market' for some time. Given that they are interested in being regulated in their most important markets like Sweden & Denmark, we expect Betsson to apply for an Ontario license for their Betsafe brand. After all, in August 2021, the Betsson AB CEO was quoted about the importance of the Canadian and Ontario markets as he announced an investment in a hockey media company, Slaphot Media Inc. We fully expect Betsafe Ontario players to be on-boarded to the legal system come market launch in 2022. Update FEB 10, 2022, Betsson's CEO affirms that the Betsafe brand will apply for the Ontario license in the company's year end financial presentation. Read our Betsafe Ontario review.
There is perhaps no other sports betting brand that has more 'grey market' customers in Ontario than bet365. bet365 has of course been marketing its brand in Canada and Ontario through all the legal channels available to it for many years now. As far back as 2013, bet365 was advertising its free to play site at Toronto Argonauts games that even included signage on the padding at the base of the uprights.
While we have not seen anything in the press about bet365 applying for an Ontario license, given the above, and with national licenses in the UK, Spain, Italy, Denmark, Sweden, Mexico, Colombia, Australia, the Netherlands and Germany, with absolute certainty, we expect bet365 to apply for an iGaming license to become a legal Ontario betting site. We then expect all existing bet365 Ontario players to be on-boarded to the legal system upon market launch in 2022. The company will likely continue to serve its customers in other provinces from the 'grey market'. (Update: On March 15, 2022, bet365 was issued its license, so we know for certain now that if you already have an account with them before the April 4 market open, it can be made to carry over into the 'legal' system.) Read our bet365 Ontario preview.
No. 1 for Sports
Australian iGaming startup company, PointsBet, has only ever operated in legal sports betting markets - never in the 'grey'. With Drew Brees signed-up as part owner and brand ambassador and as an official NFL-licensed sportsbook in the US where it has several state licenses, Canada was an obvious next step and PointsBet will launch in Ontario. In June, the parent company made their first major hire for PointsBet Canada with former Monkey Knife Fight president, Canadian Nic Sulsky as their Chief Commercial Officer. They then moved to make key local hires for CEO and in areas of operations, compliance and people. Expect PointsBet Canada to be ready to launch their Ontario sports betting site and mobile app when the market opens in early 2022. Read our PointsBet Ontario preview.
During his company's earnings conference call in February 2021, due to the impending legalization of single-event sports betting, Jason Robins, the CEO of US sportsbook and daily fantasy sports operator DraftKings indicated that Canada was going to be a very exciting opportunity for expansion. DraftKings is already a legal online sports betting provider in over a dozen US states and it already serves Canadians through its DFS service, so it has an existing database of interested sports fans across Canada. In recent company communications, the CEO indicated that he does not expect the company to lead in Ontario like it does in US state markets, given the existence of 'grey market' incumbents. Expect DraftKings Ontario Sportsbook to launch its sports betting site and mobile app in April 2022. Read our DraftKings Ontario preview.
In March 2021, online gambling giant Entain announced that it had joined forces with Responsible Gaming Council (RGC) to research and inform the regulatory approach to gaming and sports betting in Canada. While this announcement does not explicitly call out an intention to apply for an Ontario license, it does mention that Ontario is expected to become the first Canadian province to introduce online gaming licenses, likely by 2022. In the USA, Entain owns a 50 per cent stake in the BetMGM joint partnership with MGM. Given the investment in partnering with Wayne Gretzky and Connor McDavid as a brand ambassadors, we fully expect BetMGM to enter the market with an Ontario sports betting site and mobile app. Read our BetMGM Ontario preview.
Score Media & Gaming has been perhaps the most visible local brand with an interest in entering the legal Ontario iGaming market. On the day after Bill C-218 was passed to allow single-event sports betting in Canada, on a billboard in the heart of downtown Toronto, they announced that they would be entering the Ontario market. Even though theScore was acquired by American operator Penn National Gaming, they have plans for an 80,000 square foot future headquarters at Sugar Beach on the shores of Lake Ontario and are constantly looking to hire for a multitude of roles within the company. Read our theScore Bet Ontario preview.
For a period, Betfair actually served Canada from the 'grey market'. You can even find its old Betfair Canada Twitter handle online. A lot of time has passed since Betfair stopped serving Canada. You can see the last tweet on that account is from 2012. There have been no media releases about the potential for a return of Betfair as a licensed provider for the legal Ontario market. Could Betfair return? There is a chance, but at this point, we would estimate it to be a slim one. While the Betfair brand still carries a good deal of weight in Canada, its parent company, Flutter, is also the owner of DFS and US sportsbook provider FanDuel. Given the investment in the marketing of FanDuel brand in North America by Flutter, FanDuel will certainly be the #1 Ontario brand in the Flutter stable. While we would argue that the Betfair brand would also be warmly welcomed by Ontario bettors that know it well, we do not expect Betfair to gain an Ontario license.
This is highly likely, though there has been no corporate commentary from them on the matter of an Ontario market license application. FanDuel is owned by online gambling and sports betting behemoth, Flutter, which is traded on the London Stock Exchange and owns other important gaming and betting brands like BetFair, PaddyPower, SkyBet, PokerStars, Fox Bet (USA) and SportsBet (Australia). FanDuel already operates its daily fantasy sports games in Canada, so it already has a database of interested sports fans and customers. FanDuel applying for an Ontario iGaming license should be assumed as a given. Update October 15, 2021: It has been reported that FanDuel will make a key hire for the role of GM of its Canadian business in former Deloitte and Rogers employee, Dale Hooper. FanDuel Sportsbook Ontario will now surely be live at market launch in 2022. Update on March 11, 2022, FanDuel was issued its Ontario license. Read our FanDuel Ontario review.
While part owner of 'BetMGM', Entain is also the full owner of leading international betting brand 'Bwin' (pronounced 'bee-win'). They also own UK brands 'Ladbrokes' & 'Coral', Australian brand 'Neds', and the international iGaming brands of both 'PartyPoker' & 'PartyCasino'. Bwin has international brand recognition, especially for soccer fans in Canada that know them from their past Real Madrid kit sponsorship. Combine this with the fact that Bwin currently holds national licenses in Spain, Italy, France, Belgium, Denmark and Sweden, it is certainly possible that Entain could seek an Ontario iGaming license. Update April 2, 2022: Bwin has secured its iGaming Ontario license. Read our Bwin Ontario preview.
While there are no press clippings to indicate that they have applied to serve Ontario, Betway is a brand that always seeks local national iGaming and sports betting licenses when available. Betway is licensed to serve the UK, France, Sweden, Mexico, Italy, Spain and Belgium. Given the large number of 'grey market' Ontario players that they have, with great conviction, we at SNBET expect Betway to apply for a license to become a fully legal Ontario betting site. All existing Betway Ontario players should then be on-boarded to the legal system at the time of market launch in 2022. Betway will also continue to serve other Canadian provinces from the 'grey market'. (Update April 19, 2022: Betway received its license to operate in Ontario). Read our Betway Ontario preview.
Given the recent investment that they have made in their sponsorship of the Canadian Premier League and in their hiring of former TSN on-air personality Natasha Staniszewski to run a podcast and create original odds boost promotions, we fully expect ComeOn! to apply for an iGaming Ontario license. This will allow all ComeOn! Ontario players to be on-boarded to the new legal system at the time of market launch. (Update April 21, 2022: ComeOn! has received its license to operate in Ontario.) Read our ComeOn! Ontario preview.
Although BetVictor has mainly focused on the UK and Ireland markets for sports betting, they have also served Canada for a long time and the country is one of their main 'grey' national markets. Recognized from several past English Premier League club partnerships, they have quite a large number of existing customers in Canada. Although there is no public information on this, it is our understanding that BetVictor will in fact apply to legally serve the Ontario market with an iGaming license. Existing BetVictor Ontario players will be on-boarded to the legal market when it is ready to open in 2022. BetVictor will continue to serve other Canadian provinces from its Gibraltar jurisdiction. Read our BetVictor Ontario preview.
Casumo is one of the more recent casino and sports betting upstarts on the international iGaming scene and Canada was one of its target markets. It only opened its sports betting vertical on the Kambi sportsbook platform to a handful of national markets, and Canada was one of these. We understand that Casumo will be applying for the iGaming Ontario license so that it may offer its unique approach to online casino and sports betting products in a fully legal manner. If approved, existing Casumo Ontario will be able to be on-boarded to the legal market at the time of launch, and they will likely continue to serve other Canadian provinces from their jurisdiction in Malta. Read our Casumo Ontario preview.
BetHard started its story as a Swedish upstart iGaming brand in 2012. One of its initial owners was actually Swedish soccer icon Zlatan Ibrahimovic. However, that group recently sold out to Esports Entertainment Group, which now holds several sports betting brands. Despite their past interest in the Canadian market and their history of seeking national European licenses, BetHard will not apply for the iGaming Ontario license, and will no longer be active in seeking new players in Canada.
Yes. Kindred has filled and advertised for several roles for Unibet based in Ontario for the Ontario and Canada market. Kindred's 'Country Manager Canada', confirmed that their 32Red brand will also launch in Ontario . This should not come as a surpise as Unibet serves Canada from the 'grey market' and their parent company, the Kindred Group, which is a Swedish company, has national online gaming licenses in the UK, France, Italy, Denmark, Belgium and Sweden, as well as several US state licenses. At the time of market launch in 2022, we would expect some level of migration procedure for existing Unibet players in Ontario, so they may be shifted to the to legal system. We also expect Unibet to continue to serve its existing players in other Canadian provinces from its Malta-based site, though they may close off their 'international' site to new Canadian players outside Ontario. (Update: Unibet was granted its license on March 10, 2022.) Read our Unibet Ontario preview.
Yes. As per the above, the Kindred Group is bringing both Unibet and 32Red to Ontario for launch in early 2022. It is our information that 32Red will offer both sportsbook and casino gaming verticals in Ontario. Previously, only its casino had been available in Canada and Ontario. Read our 32Red Ontario preview.
William Hill has been undergoing some upheaval lately. US casino operator Caesars purchased William Hill in 2021 for US$3.7 billion. However, it seemingly did this only for the US portion of the business. In just a few months, Caesars then agreed to sell the non-US holdings of William Hill to 888 Holdings. This sale included the William Hill UK land-based and online sportsbook operations and European-based online operations.
Despite this period of change, William Hill as an online bookmaker has significant brand heritage in Canada through its years in operating from the 'grey market'. William Hill has indeed applied for a license to become a legal Ontario sportsbook. Existing William Hill Ontario sports betting players will be on-boarded to the legal system once they are fully licensed. Read our William Hill Ontario review.
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Even though 888sport has never offered Canadian Dollar accounts, they do have a significant number of players across Canada. The good news for any of these players is that if 888sport were to look to get an Ontario license, they would finally have to offer their players the ability to play in their native currency. Given that 888sport has many national licenses in Europe and is expanding in the US with several state licenses through their partnership with SI, we fully expect 888sport to apply for an Ontario sports betting license. With this, all 888sport Ontario players will likely be shifted into the legal system soon after market launch. Update March 3, 2022: 888 confirms it has secured its iGaming Ontario license.
10Bet is a very old online sports betting brand that has long had a focus on the Canadian market. At the original time of writing, there was no news about whether or not 10Bet will look to secure a license for Ontario. With a significant number of Ontario-based players, we understood that an Ontario application was under consideration. In mid-Fedruary, we got word that 10Bet will indeed be making an application to become a legal online sportsbook provider in Ontario. 10Bet is already licensed in the national markets of UK, Ireland and Sweden, and it has an international iGaming license in Malta.
Spin has been marketing its sports and casino brands in Canada for many years now. Of course the ads pointed to free-to-play websites, but their main dot-com sites always served Canada. Although the sports vertical has now ceased, its casino brand continues. With a significant number of Ontario-based players, Spin Casino will be applying for an Ontario license. Other related Casino brands like Jackpot City, should also gain their Ontario license.
NetBet is a sports betting operator with a history of gaining national licenses in its most important markets including the UK, France and Romania. A long time casino and sports betting provider to Canada from the 'grey market', the country has been one if their most important markets. While there is no public news on the intentions of NetBet in Ontario, it is our understanding that NetBet will indeed apply for a license to serve Ontario legally. Thus, and current NetBet Ontario players will be shifted onto the legal system at the time of market launch in 2022.
PokerStars is one of the world's most recognizable gaming brands. Run by Toronto-based 'The Stars Group', the company merged in an all-stock deal with Flutter in 2020. Though Flutter brand FanDuel will be the main sportsbook brand in the Ontario market in terms of the acquisition of new customers, PokerStars has an immense book of existing poker players across Canada. To leverage their database of players fully, PokerStars has added casino and sportsbook verticals to its .com site. To ensure that its large book of Ontario players can have access, we fully expect PokerStars to apply for all the iGaming Ontario licenses that apply to their business lines
Swedish iGaming brand LeoVegas has been marketing to Canadians from the 'grey market' for many years. They even employed a famous retired Swedish Toronto hockey player as their brand ambassador for use in its TV ads. Given that LeoVegas still markets its free-to-play site heavily in Canada and it has a history of gaining licenses in its key markets where ever they are available, like in the UK, Spain, Italy, Denmark and Sweden, we fully expect LeoVegas to apply for an iGaming Ontario license. This will allow LeoVegas Ontario to on-board all their existing players to the legal market. We also expect them to continue serving other Canadian provinces from the 'grey market' through their international iGaming jurisdiction in Mallta. (Update on November 11, 2021: LeoVegas confirms in their 2021 Q3 release that they are in discussions on how the regulations for the Ontario market may be structured. Update March 15, 2022, iGB reported that LeoVegas has achieved its Ontario licensure) Read our LeoVegas Ontario review.
Bodog has been serving Ontario and all of Canada since the late 1990's from their jurisdiction in Antigua & Barbuda. Given they have no history of applying for local market licenses for any of the national markets that they have served in the past, we do not expect them to apply for an Ontario iGaming license. However, Canada is now essentially the only market that Bodog serves. While we do not expect them to apply to serve Ontario at the moment, or any provinces that might follow, if the regulators close the loopholes with regard to advertising in Ontario, Bodog may make an unprecedented decision to go the legal route and apply for a license. For us, this remains a slim possibility. As such, Bodog Ontario players will not be migrated to the legal market in 2022.
Pinnacle has been serving Canada, including Ontario from the 'grey market' since the late 1990s. With their unique approach to sports betting, they have eschewed opportunities to gain national or sub national gaming licenses in many jurisdictions, preferring to stay fully in the 'grey' from Curacao. This appears to be changing. Pinnacle has so many Ontario players, they are seemingly about to do something they have never done: get a license and pay local taxes, all so they can keep their existing Ontario players.
Although MarathonBet has served Canada from the 'grey market' through its jurisdiction in Curacao, it has never focused very hard on the Canadian sports betting market. While MarathonBet has gained national licenses in markets like the UK, Italy and Spain, we do not expect MarathonBet to apply to serve Ontario as a licensed sportsbook provider. It will likely continue to serve Canada, excluding Ontario, from the 'grey market'.
1XBET originated in Russia and rarely looks to serve any country through a local license. Though the UKGC revoked their UK license and Spurs, Chelsea and Liverpool backed out of lucrative partnerships deals due to this and related controversy, 1XBET remains highly visible as principal betting sponsor of FC Barcelona as well as the entire Italian Serie A. Given this, we fully expect 1XBET to continue to serve Canada solely from the 'grey market' through their Curacao jurisdiction. They will not apply to serve the legal Ontario market with a license. If you have an account with 1XBET, you will not be on-boarded to the legal Ontario system come 2022. If you do NOT have an account with 1XBET, but are considering one, do not sign up with them. Given all the controversy surrounding this brand, from not paying winners, to various other violations, we would recommend that Canadian players avoid 1XBET at all costs, and look beyond sporting partnerships they do have and look to the clubs that backed away from them as partners. Read our 1XBET Ontario review if you need more reasons to avoid them.
Sports Interaction is fully allowed to serve all residents of Canada, including players in Ontario from their servers located on Mohawk First Nations territory in Kahnawake. As a result of this, we are unsure if they will apply to serve Ontario through an iGaming Ontario license, or if a legal carve-out will be developed to allow their brand to mix with officially licensed Ontario brands. Update April 2, 2022: SIA has in fact made its application to the AGCO to be a licensed provider. They will be in the Ontario legal market.
CoolBet has been operating its free-to-play site in Canada for several years. With significant recent investment in the advertisement of the CoolBet brand on Canadian radio and billboards and through various sports team partnerships, they should have a significant number of Ontario-based players on their real-money betting site. Given that these marketing relationships appear to be ongoing, and the importance of the Canadian market to those that operate CoolBet in Canada, we fully expect their parent company to apply for an Ontario license so that it will be ready at the time of market launch in 2022. This will allow existing CoolBet Ontario players to be on-boarded to the legal system, while Canadian players outside Ontario may continue to play at the CoolBet main domain as regulated from Malta.
Ontario sports fans could be familiar with this UK bookmaker brand through several past partnerships in the Premier League. More recently, Toronto Wolfpack Rugby League fans will be familiar with Betfred as the title sponsor of the Super League. Thus there is at least some level of brand familiarity in Ontario and Canada. More recently, Betfred has moved to legally serve some of the US state markets, as well as the regulated market of Spain. However, Betfred has never served Canada from the 'grey market', so it would have no existing players to on-board to the legal Ontario system at the time of launch, which would put them at a disadvantage compared to their peers. Given this, and the amount of competition that is to come, we do not expect Betfred to apply to serve Ontario, though it remains a slim possibility.
Though it is mainly focused on the Asian market, Dafabet has been a highly visible brand for those that watch English or Scottish soccer with several past and current club kit sponsorship deals. While they serve Canada from the 'grey market' (without CAD accounts), Dafabet has no history of gaining individual licenses for local iGaming markets. Thus we do not expect Dafabet to serve Ontario legally.
The parent company for vbet has increased brand awareness through several past and current soccer club sponsorship deals in Europe. Although vbet has moved to apply for licenses in the UK, France, Germany and elsewhere in Europe, and they serve Canada from the 'grey market', it is our understanding that vbet will not apply for an Ontario iGaming license in anticipation of the 2022 market launch. Thus, if you are a vbet customer in Ontario already, you will not be on-boarded to the legal market.
Bet99 is already able to serve all of Canada through their license with the Kahnawake Gaming Commission on Mohawk territory in Quebec. While we have no indication that they will move to invest in an additional license to be an officially 'legal' Ontario provider, this piece in the Toronto Star notes that it is 'expected' that Bet99 will become one of many sports betting and iGaming providers applying to serve Ontario. In a Twitter Spaces event held by 'The Parleh' on March 3rd 2022, a guest speaker, the Canada Manager for Kindred Group, noted that several months beforehand, she had been connected to the owner of Bet99 because he wanted to sell it. Read our Bet99 Ontario preview to see how their offering might compare to other potential Ontario operators.
TonyBet is an Estonia-based sportsbook & casino brand that decided to enter the Canadian 'grey market' very late, just as bill C-218 had been passed to allow single-event sports betting. With significant media buys on TV and radio in the Fall of 2021, if you ask them, they are serious about the Canadian market. TonyBet failed to tailor their site interface to Canadian tastes & offers uncompetitive odds margins. Will TonyBet apply for an Ontario license? We have no expectation that TonyBet will apply to serve Ontario legally, as we fully expect them to stay in the 'grey'. Steer clear either way or read our TonyBet Canada review for more.
Founded in the Ukraine in 1994, Parimatch is now an international betting brand with numerous past and current big-name soccer club partnerships including Juventus, Chelsea FC and Ukranian powerhouse FC Shakhtar Donetsk. They have also had partnerships with fighters Conor McGregor and Mike Tyson. Parimatch.com was the first company to become licensed in Ukraine itself. The Parimatch brand also operates in the UK with a .co.uk domain in partnership with BetVictor. Our information is that Parimatch indeed intends to become a licensed Ontario sportsbook when the market launches in early 2022. (Developments in Ukraine however, may change this.) Parimatch.com already has a 'Canadian' version of their main site that will continue to serve the rest of Canada from the 'grey market' gaming jurisdiction of Curacao.
Rush Street Interactive (RSI), operator of the BetRivers online US bookmaker brand and operator of several US land-based casinos will enter the Ontario sports betting market. While there are few if any media clippings to be posted on the matter, we have seen several job postings on sites like 'Indeed' for RSI positions based in Toronto for various online betting-related roles. (Update: On October 14, 2021, RSI announced formally that it would enter the Ontario iGaming market. January 22, 2022: BetRivers struck a partnership with former TSN anchor Dan O'Toole to run a new podcast called 'Boomsies'.) Read our BetRivers Ontario review.
Our information indicates that Bally's Corporation will indeed apply to partner with iGaming Ontario and their 'Bally Bet' brand. Bally's is a licensed sportsbook partner of the NHL, NBA and MLB. Bally's will be looking to leverage these league licenses in the Ontario market, in addition to their existing US state licenses. Who can blame them? While they have limited brand heritage in Canada, the Ontario igaming license fee is only $100,000. With so many bricks-and-mortar casino resorts across the US under the Bally's name, there are certainly benefits to be found by entering Ontario. They certainly will have a number of Ontario visitors to these casino resorts. Assuming they have maintained a database of these players, having an online footprint in Ontario can only strengthen this relationship with existing customers that will likely be excited to play in Bally's online sportsbook and casino offerings. We are surprised that other big US casino resort brands have not yet announced the same strategy (like Wynn for example). Read our Bally Bet Ontario preview.
It appears so, yes. On March 9, 2022, we noticed on their main US landing page that 'Ontario' was an available option for visitors to select when asked 'Where do you want to bet?' Once a user selects 'Ontario' they were taken to a page that collects email addresses. Caesars has quite a recent backstory when it comes to their approach to online betting. They bought the venerable old sportsbook brand 'William Hill', peeled out the US assets to keep, then sold the balance of the assets to to 888, including WilliamHill.com (international), where Canadians have played in the 'grey market' for years and years. Caesars would probably be far better off staying away from the Ontario market, given that they have no real brand heritage, save for the Windsor casino in their name. Furthermore, the Caesars Sportsbook website domain is actually the US part of williamhill.com. Canadian players can actually still play from the 'grey market' at the same domain at the time of writing. Read our Caesars Sportsbook Ontario preview.
At this point, with no industry news linking the Ontario market to various US online sportsbook brands, we do not expect that WynnBET, TwinSpires, Fox Bet, Sugar House, Borgata and Hard Rock among others to apply for licenses to serve the Ontario iGaming market.
This is merely our expectation given the lack of news related to these brands entering the legal Ontario market and the fact that so many formerly 'grey' sportsbook operators with brand heritage in Canada will be allowed to apply and on-board their existing players. Many US brands like those listed just above likely already know that much of the battle for customers in the legal Ontario market, or the 'land rush' for market share has already been won by incumbent brands that will be able to instantly turn their existing 'grey' customers into 'legal' customers when they gain a license.
The Toronto Star has also talked about getting into the gambling business in Ontario. On March 1, 2021, the parent company of the Toronto Star newspaper indicated that it would look to apply for an iGaming license in Ontario so that it could launch an online casino and sports betting operation in order to help fund its journalism. While we wish them luck, we do not see a bright future for this venture. Given the level of competition in Ontario, both from new and existing formerly 'grey' providers, we think that the Star's eventual gaming operation will be starved for players.
Why do we say this? It is not unprecedented for a newspaper brand to start an online betting operation. Look to the UK, where the most popular tabloid, 'The Sun' opened 'sunbets.co.uk' through a joint venture with Australian gaming giant, Tabcorp. After only 18 months in 2018, even with 300,000 registered player accounts, the Australian gaming operator of 'sunbets' was losing so much money on the venture that it decided to pay a significant fee of £39.5 million to Rupert Murdoch's media company in order to exit the agreement.
While one could point to Spanish sporting newspaper 'Marca' and the modest success of their 'MarcaApuestas' brand, we would point out that the number of operators in Spain is far less than the number that serve the UK. The UK is the most mature market for online betting in the world. With the way that Ontario will open their market, with perhaps 50 or more 'legal' operators, most of which will be able to bring their existing players to the legal market - we would suggest that the coming Ontario iGaming market looks a lot more like the UK market than the Spanish one.
Furthermore, thestar.ca is a partly paywalled online newspaper now, which could be a further limiting factor in moving readers to become players. These tabloid papers, Marca and the Sun have no paywall and are completely free for anyone to read, which means anyone could then see the ads to move to play at their co-branded iGaming operations. In general, we see a very, very tough environment for The Star's iGaming venture, but at a minimum, they will need to keep their sports content as free to access, in front of their paywall.
The Star would likely be far better-served acting as an iGaming affiliate marketer, partnering with established brands and taking a portion of proceeds on referred players, rather than trying to compete against these same brands, all while accepting the risk and overhead expenses that come with being an actual operator.
You must be 19 or older to wager legally in Ontario, whether online, or at a sportsbook location.
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Updated on April 27, 2022.