Ontario sports betting might not be fully live for another three months as regulators figure out the final details of the market.
Commercial operators expect to launch in the province around mid-February or early March, industry sources told LSR.
Yaniv Spielberg, the chief strategy officer for Ontario-based Bragg Gaming, said he expects the market to launch before the end of Q1 2022.
Waiting game in Ontario sports betting
Commercial operators were initially slated to launch in late 2021, but that timeline has been pushed back. Ontario gaming regulators told LSR:
“The AGCO and iGaming Ontario (iGO)are working to ensure the open and competitive igaming market is launched expeditiously. Updates on launch timing will be provided as soon as they are available.”
Why the delay for Ontario sports betting?
Sources highlighted two main issues holding back the launch:
- Challenges in bringing gray-market operators into the regulated market: For instance, how do operators handle open futures if they have to re-register customers? Some kind of re-registration is likely since the regulated market requires higher level of KYC for instance.
- Difficulties in commercial structure: Canada sports betting law says the provinces must “conduct and manage” sports betting. To satisfy that law, each operator is forming a joint venture with iGO. As part of that structure, operator revenues will flow into a shared account. The province share is taken out and cash sent back to the operator, which is proving complicated to structure.
There are numerous other small details to be ironed out around issues like privacy and personal data, the Toronto Star reported.
Delay hurts regulated sportsbooks
The expected spring launch date is not ideal, with operators missing out on the entirety of the CFL and NFL betting. Likewise, regulated books are losing out to gray-market rivals who are still taking bets and advertising.
“The longer Ontario goes without announcing a date, it hurts the operators who will only work in a regulated space,” said one Canada-facing firm.
That said, Spielberg pointed out the regulator was handling a complex situation as best it could.
“We sent in our initial application on the Monday and had a response by Friday,” Spielberg said. “That is unheard of.”
Why sportsbooks want in on Ontario
When it eventually does launch, Ontario sports betting could be huge. The province has a population of nearly 15 million people, and would be the fifth-largest US state.
An Eilers & Krejcik report estimates Ontario sportsbooks could generate up to CAD $570 million in sports betting revenue in 2022.
Its largest city, Toronto, is a prime North American sports hub with teams in MLS, NBA, NHL and MLB, as well as the CFL. Elsewhere in Ontario, Ottawa has an NHL and a CFL team. Hamilton also has a CFL team.
Competition in the province also will benefit consumers through competitive pricing, something that proved to be an early issue with Alberta’s lottery-based offering.