Ontario Sports Betting Success Celebrated At Canadian Conference

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Ontario sports betting

Ontario sports betting regulators took some time at last month’s Canadian Gaming Summit to reflect on what they believe has been a successful first two years.

Ontario Attorney General Doug Downey said during a speech he believes the goal of going after the gray market and creating new revenue has been accomplished with the Ontario sports betting market. In its second year, online gambling operators took C$63 billion ($46 billion) in wagers and generated C$2.4 billion ($1.75 billion) in revenue.

“I have to say, I believe we have delivered a safe, regulated space that is a premier market in North America and beyond,” Downey said. “It’s all happened because of the collaboration between the regulators, operators and suppliers.” 

Ontario sports betting ahead of schedule? 

Troy Ross, president at TPM Public Affairs, said during one panel the Ontario model “works infinitely better than we thought.” He cited early projections that the province would generate “maybe $300 million” in revenue and channelize 70% of customers.

“It blew those out of the water,” Ross said. “We’re reaching numbers in year two we thought we wouldn’t hit until maybe year six.” 

Martin Lycka, Entain‘s SVP of American regulatory affairs and responsible gambling, said Ontario is “the platinum standard of iGaming regulation.”

Gray market migration in Ontario

Ontario has 47 licensed operators and 77 gambling sites. Downey said there are 1.3 million active accounts in Ontario, which has a population of nearly 15 million.

Prior to the 2022 commercial launch, 70% of online gambling was in the gray market, according to Martha Otton, executive director of iGaming Ontario. Now, 86% of gambling is within the market, she said. 

“Our target is greater than 86%,” Otton said. “It’s the awareness of what is and isn’t legal. That’s a job we’ll focus on in the coming year.” 

Ontario sports betting report

Deloitte and iGaming Ontario released an economic report during the Summit highlighting the C$2.7 billion in annual GDP the gambling industry has added to the province.

The report also found the industry “sustained almost 15,000 jobs,” including 2,675 direct jobs.

That includes new Toronto offices for companies like PointsBet and Flutter.

How it compares to US markets

While Canadian stakeholders are publicly happy with the results of the first two years, the market still lags behind US states with online casinos and sports betting. Despite being larger than the three largest online markets in the US, Ontario trails the trio in online revenue from April 2023 to March 2024.

MarketPopulationTotal Online Gambling Revenue (US dollars)Sports Betting Handle
New Jersey9.3 million$3.1 billion$12.7 billion
Pennsylvania13 million$2.9 billion$7.5 billion
Michigan10.1 million$2.4 billion$4.9 billion
Ontario15 million$1.75 billion$7.1 billion

However, the Ontario praise was not all focused on revenue.

Ontario remains in the works

While the regulators are happy with the migration to the legal market, it is still a fledgling industry, said Karin Schnarr, CEO of the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario.

“It feels like a mature market, but we’re still very nascent,” Schnarr said. “We still have a lot to do in [anti-money laundering] and responsible gambling. But I’m impressed with the industry coming together as an example of how we continue to evolve.” 

Lycka said Entain has “appreciated the open-door policy,” allowing operators to work closely with regulators to evolve the market. Last year, the province tightened its advertising rules, including prohibiting the use of athletes.

Will more provinces open sports betting? 

At the Summit, Alberta’s looming open market was widely discussed. There was also speculation Alberta’s push could help open up additional provinces. 

Bet99 CEO Jared Beber said Ontario set a precedent, and Alberta can prove replication success. Meanwhile, PointsBet Canada CEO Scott Vanderwel said he hopes for a coast-to-coast regulatory framework. 

“If coast-to-coast is a jigsaw of regulations, operators will not see the benefit of jumping through hoops for the smaller populations,” Vanderwel said. “Rather than 16 separate pieces, let’s create a unified view. Let’s not reinvent the wheel. 

“Ontario proves it can move out of the shadows productively. It’s an industry with a lot to give, so let’s move this from the shades into the light so the benefits accrue coast to coast.”  

Photo by Shutterstock/Artem Zavarzin