Embattled Operator Approved To Join Ontario Sports Betting Market

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Ontario sports betting

With an Ontario sports betting launch a month away, another operator is making its way to the starting line.

888 received an iGaming license from the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario, according to an announcement Thursday. The company said it will be ready to launch Ontario sports betting, as well as online casino and poker, April 4.

“We are delighted to have been awarded a license by the AGCO and look forward to launching in the market when it officially opens,” 888 Holdings CEO Itai Pazner said. “As a group, our focus is on strengthening our presence and offer to customers across key regulated markets.

“To that end, Ontario represents an attractive long-term growth opportunity for 888 and this is an extremely strategically important milestone for us.”

Ontario sports betting launch

Single-event sports betting in Ontario became available in August 2021 with an expanded Ontario Lottery and Gaming product, ProLine+.

Regulators then had to iron out all the details before announcing the market will open to commercial operators in April. Ontario was the first jurisdiction in Canada to announce a plan beyond the provincial lotteries.

The launch is not without controversy. The province’s largest casino operator, Great Canadian Gaming, tried to delay the market, while opposition from indigenous nations is also growing.

Other approved Ontario operators

Last month, three other sportsbook operators received AGCO approval:

Many other operators are reportedly looking at Ontario and its 15 million residents, which would make it the fifth-largest US state. Recently, NorthStar Gaming announced the name of its sportsbook, NorthStar Bets, while unveiling a partnership with the Toronto Star.

US sports betting market share leaders FanDuel and DraftKings both expect to launch, but executives are wary of bold projections. In the company’s Q4 earnings call, DraftKings CEO Jason Robins said the Ontario market share forecast is not as bullish as it is for US states.

888 fine no issue?

888 holds licenses in 19 regulated markets, including access to seven US states, according to the release. It currently operates in Colorado sports betting as SI Sportsbook.

However, its US expansion plans could be affected from a $12.5 million fine by the UK Gambling Commission. The same commission also fined 888 $10.4 million in 2017.

“There is a clear indication from [UKGC CEO] Andrew Rhodes that if this happens again the operator’s (license) will be at serious risk of revocation,” Keystone Law partner Richard Williams told LSR. “Revocation of a GB (license) would clearly be a real problem for regulators in the US.”