Globally, internet-based gaming revenue will clock over $500 billion by 2023. In Canada, the trend signals a progressive embrace of internet gaming even as provincial regulators collaborate with private operators to fine-tune the legal labyrinth. Initially, all gaming activities were illegal as per the then operational Canada’s criminal code. However, the 2021 amendment of the criminal code seeks to liberalize gambling in Canada. Through bill C-218, which came into effect on August 2021, provinces like Ontario have liberally interpreted the enactment to allow private iGaming operators to offer sports betting and online gaming services in Canada.
Though private operators have a significant legal ground to cover, the other side of the fence looks greener. Initially, Canada’s penal code prohibited all betting and iGaming plus the facilitative services. Marketing, providing gaming equipment, financing or hiring a gambling joint was illegal. Nonetheless, the advent of internet gaming presented a more complex situation for Canadian authorities. Offshore gaming operators could penetrate the market. For obvious reasons, gaming is not an egregious crime that would raise the government’s alarm to consider extra-jurisdictional force.
Besides, the execution of laws relating to the gaming penal code in Canada was increasingly becoming difficult. If activities that would otherwise constitute a crime in Canada occur elsewhere outside Canada, no individual can be held legally liable within Canada. This legal loophole was the case with offshore private gaming operators. Further, Canadian police have to order to start a criminal prosecution process. Due to the lack of nexus with Canadian territory, it becomes hard for local law enforcers to curtail offshore gaming operations legally. This legally vague situation is why foreign-based casinos and betting sites have been dear to Canadian gamers for decades.
While foreign gambling sites have a share of the Canadian gaming market, albeit against the wish of the federal government, players in the industry have been working on the legal provisions to allow some degree of local-based gaming licensing. The journey dates back to the 2019 pre-budget period in which policymakers proposed the formation of a competitive and consumer-protective iGaming market in Ontario. Consequently, in the 2020 budget, the province made it clear of overhauling the existing legal provisions. The overhaul would see the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) assume the mandate to regulate and manage iGaming activities in Ontario. The change of legal perspective led to the formation of iGaming Ontario, a subsidiary of the commission.
The province’s new gaming market is under iGaming Ontario, expected to launch in the first week of April 2022. As the new regulator, iGaming Ontario will offer you a chance to determine whether a site is legal or not. The regulator will embed its seal of approval to registered operators who meet the requisite standards of promoting responsible gambling and integrity.
This new subsidiary of the provincial gaming regulator has opened doors for online gaming. Directors reporting to the attorney General shall govern the body. For operations, the Ontario casinos and gaming operators will be required to; enhance social responsibility and protect consumers while ensuring integrity and fairness. The iGaming revenues generated from online gambling will be ploughed back to the Ontario government to boost its priority funding.
The relationship between the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario and iGaming Ontario will see the two layers of regulation mutually coordinate to perform the following roles.
- To conduct and manage iGaming activities by partnering with private gaming operators.
- This AGCO’s subsidiary plays this role by ensuring compliance with Canada’s penal code guidelines, the gaming control act, and the registrar of internet gaming standards.
- Oversight and executing agreements between Ontario’s regulated iGaming scheme and private companies. It also checks compliance with policies, practices and programs that enhance key government objectives as espoused in the minimization of bureaucratic red tapes and consumer protection.
- Reconciliation of iGaming-generated revenues on behalf of provincial governments.
- Developing anti-money laundering policies within the Ontario gaming market.
- Provision of the requisite market insights to effortlessly facilitate operator integration into the new market.
- Establishing a dispute resolution process that calmly solves all customer concerns.
Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario is a regulatory agency established in 1998. Its principal duty is to control Ontario’s regulated market through the stewardship of board directors that report directly to the province’s attorney general. The regulator’s specific roles are;
- Administration of the 1992’s Gaming Control Act.
- Crafting and validating standards and requirements that guide Ontario lottery and gaming corporation (OLG) concerning the operationalization of gaming sites under its jurisdiction. These standards also encompass the registrar’s standards that crucially guide iGaming Ontario, private operators and registered suppliers.
- To implement responsible gambling requirements and Promote integrity through developing eligibility criteria for private operators and suppliers.
- Working closely with gaming-related suppliers and operators to boost their understanding of obligatory duties to promote compliance.
- Attending to all regulatory complaints touching on internet gaming site integrity, personal data breaches, fairness, violation of responsible gambling rules and money laundering claims.
- Employ progressive sanctions to bring back suppliers and operators into compliance in case of any deviation.
Ontario iGaming signals a spark of light at the end of the tunnel in Canada’s gaming market. Set for April 4, 2022 launch, Ontario iGaming regulation embraces a thoughtful hybrid approach to gaming regulation. The regulator, a subsidiary of AGCO, is tasked to conduct and manage iGaming activities with the operators.
While other provinces are yet to adopt such a liberal approach, it is only a matter of time. Many of the rest of the provinces operate under the grey area. The grey area denotes a situation where offshore registered iGaming operators leverage the market demand at the expense of local operators. With the iGaming Ontario setting the pace, the Canadian market is progressively opening doors for virtual gambling, a precedent that resonates well with a market that circumvents legal loopholes to consumer foreign-served gaming products.