Analysis: Ontario Sports Betting Rules Appear Friendly To Industry

Posted on October 22, 2021
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Written By on October 22, 2021

The comment period for draft Ontario sports betting standards closed in August, and the final regulatory standards were released in September. Operators will like the rules.

Released in July, stakeholders were allowed to review the document, which became part of the Registrar’s Standards for Internet Gaming for when everything comes online later this year or in early 2022.

Much of the original document governing future iGaming in the Province of Opportunity remains unchanged with the inclusion of the ON sports betting rules.

Overview of Ontario sports betting document

The draft document was broken into six subcategories:

  • Entity Level
  • Responsible Gambling
  • Prohibiting Access to Designated Groups and Player  Account Management
  • Ensuring Game Integrity and Player Awareness
  • Information Security and Protection of Assets
  • Minimizing Unlawful Activity Related to Gaming

The first two sections of the document remain identical to the previous version that only applied to iGaming until Standard 2.15.

Responsible play

The Standards make clear that operators must present a “straightforward and understandable” method for making wagers. In addition, all wager details must be made clear to the bettor before the bet is finalized.

Operators must also implement systems to “prevent extended, continuous, and impulsive play.”

At a minimum, operators are required to:

  • Identify parlays
  • Notify players if bets are or are not accepted
  • Where odds change before a wager is confirmed, the bettor must have the ability to confirm or withdraw from the bet
  • Where a bettor selects automatic acceptance of changes in bets, they must have the ability to manually opt out
  • Bettors must be made aware of when bets can and cannot be placed
  • Free-to-play games must not be misleading about odds, payouts, or any aspect of a bet for value
  • All bets must be denoted in Canadian dollars
  • The player must be informed of the data source for settling bets

Who is prohibited from wagering in Ontario?

The Ontario Standards prohibit various people from placing wagers, including many of the usual suspects, including “athletes, coaches, managers, owners and anyone with sufficient authority to influence the outcome of an event.”

Additionally, anyone with access to non-public information is banned from wagering.

The Standards also prohibit those involved in a competition from setting the odds for the event.

Interestingly, while the Ontario Standards require gaming operators to notify a sports league or governing body if they learn of a prohibited person wagering, there does not appear to be a requirement to notify the regulator. Nor do sports leagues appear to be obligated to notify operators if they learn of prohibited individuals wagering.

Speed and integrity

In the fourth section, the rules, using the same language as igaming, state:

Where speed of interaction has an effect on the player’s chances of winning, the Operator shall take reasonable steps to ensure the player is not unfairly disadvantaged due to gaming system related performance issues.

While the sports leagues and their lobbyists have struck paydirt in many states later to come online with sports betting, the leagues appear to have missed the mark on securing an official league data mandate in Ontario.

Match-fixing mitigation

Operators must have controls in place to monitor and report that activity to an independent integrity monitor.

Integrity monitors are responsible for sharing suspicious wagering information with other monitors and notifying all participating Ontario sports betting operators.

Where corruption is suspected, an operator must act in good faith when choosing to void a wager.

What sports will be available?

Instead of providing a list of allowed events, the Ontario Standards outline 11 criteria for determining whether an event is permissible.

Many of the Standards are commonplace, such as requiring that the majority of the participants be over the age of 18 and that there are integrity safeguards in place.

The standards also specify no wagering on events that involve animal fighting or cruelty, and the catch-all category of “the bet is not reasonably objectionable.”

Esports?

The Ontario Standards specify that esports are considered a sports event to the extent that they have proper integrity safeguards in place.

While esports pass the test, virtual sports fall under the iGaming guidelines, not those governing sports and event betting.

No conflicts here

The final standards also set out the requirements for independent integrity monitors, imposing more stringent requirements than in other jurisdictions including requiring:

Independent integrity monitors shall not have any perceived or real conflicts of interests in performing the independent integrity monitor role, including such as acting as an operator or as an oddsmaker.

Take your crypto elsewhere

While there has been growing interest in gaming operators accepting cryptocurrencies like other merchants, the Ontario sportsbook rules explicitly say no. They go on farther to state:

Cryptocurrency is not legal tender and shall not be accepted.

Assessing the standards

The Ontario Standards are one of the more industry-friendly sets of rules that we have seen roll out in North America.

Of course, we are still not certain who will be able to gain access to the Ontario market and what the tax rates will be, but the Standards appear to be among the more permissive.

*Editor’s note: The author filed comments on these Standards with the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario on August 18, 2021.

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John Holden

John Holden J.D. / Ph.D. is an academic. His research focuses on policy issues surrounding sports corruption.

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