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, 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.
Apr. 4, 8 a.m.
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