Sportsbook operators are calling on Québec to become the next open sports betting market in Canada.
In May, a coalition of eight Canada sportsbooks announced the Québec Online Gaming Coalition in a push for regulators to allow private operators in Québec. The only sports betting in Québec is through Loto-Québec’s Mise-o-jeu.
The coalition aims to help the Québec government set up an independent regulatory body and framework for commercial online gaming. As Ontario sports betting regulators continue to tout their success despite limited public transparency, the operators suggest following the provincial neighbor’s lead will be Québec’s best course of action.
The call to open more provincial jurisdictions to private operators comes as US state regulators call for federal help cracking down on illegal black-market operators stateside.
New coalition for Canada sports betting
With Canada’s largest province already open to private iGaming companies, operators are eager to gain access to the second-most populous jurisdiction. Québec has 8.7 million residents, making it roughly equivalent to Virginia.
The eight initial members of the Quebec Online Gaming Coalition are:
- Apricot Investments
- Games Global
- Rush Street Interactive
The members offer a mix of experience, from online casino companies and major sportsbook operators, including the parents of BetMGM and US sports betting leader FanDuel.
Operators pitch for safe Canada sports betting
Several of the operators in the coalition, like Betway and Bet99, are former unregulated gray market operators in Ontario and favor implementing a licensing and tax structure. The coalition hopes “to address growing concerns about consumer safety, responsible gaming, advertising, and substantially increasing government revenues.”
The coalition’s formation was in response to some of the findings of a recent Leger Marketing survey on Quebecers about gaming in the province. The results included:
- 66% favor regulating private gaming operators
- 71% believe the government cannot block private operators
- 64% agree revenues can help fund government priorities
Ontario sports betting model
Ontario regulators opened up the commercial market in April 2022, and operators took more than CAD $35 billion in bets and generated CAD $1.4 billion in revenue in the first year. The figures do not include ProLine+ numbers, which Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. launched in August 2021.
There are more than 30 regulated online gaming sites in Ontario. A March survey in Ontario found that 85.3% of bettors played on regulated sites during its first year.
Stopping the gray market
Regulators also believe they largely accomplished one of the main goals of opening up the province: operator migration from the gray market. At least 17 operators exited the gray market after regulators ended a transitionary period in October 2022. A number of significant operators, including bet365 and Betway, had already launched.
“A key objective in this first year has been to move Ontario players from playing on unregulated sites to the regulated market, so that they would benefit from high standards of operator and game integrity, fairness and player protections including responsible gambling safeguards,” Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario Registrar and CEO Tom Mungham said earlier this year.
“Although there’s still much work to be done, we’re pleased to see such a substantial shift towards gaming on regulated sites so far, and everything that it represents for players and for the province.”
How Ontario compares to US markets
While Canada sports betting proponents tout the success of Ontario, it does trail US iGaming markets, including less-populous states like Michigan and New Jersey. Ontario is home to almost 15 million people, which would make it the fifth-largest US state.
With 9.3 million people, NJ iGaming operators generated $2.3 billion in revenue from April 2021 to Feb. 2023. Converted to US dollars, Ontario operators brought in approximately $1 billion in that time frame.
Not all operators are happy with the competition, however. Coolbet withdrew from Ontario in March to focus on gray markets in other provinces.
Quebec next for Canada sports betting?
The efforts to legalize single-game wagering in Canada took years before lawmakers changed the Criminal Code in 2021. Back in 2014, the Online Gambling Task Force recommended Québec create a regulatory body to license private operators.
Nearly 10 years later, while Canada has legalized single-game wagering, just Ontario has opened the online Canadian gaming industry to private operators. The pressure and specific framework suggestion might help push Quebec over the line.
For now, however, the unregulated gray market remains active in provinces outside Ontario.