Online gambling legislation has a place in Ontario’s budget, In fact, Canada‘s most populous province may lead the way on legalizing the internet sector.
The Conservative government is set to end the provincial lottery’s current monopoly on legal online casino games. Of note, this is how the industry works in Canada, with few exceptions like charitable gambling. A big issue has been the ban on single-game sports wagering.
Online gambling may finally get its due
Doug Ford, who gained a provincial majority government in 2018, first mentioned online gambling in the 2019 budget. It was a first effort, but this time around could be the one.
In the 2019 Budget, the government’s intention was to establish an online market for internet gaming (iGaming) in Ontario. Now, the Province wants to give the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) authority to conduct and manage iGaming, while serving in the role of regulator.
Upon approval, a dedicated subsidiary under the AGCO would be established to manage the relationship between the government and private iGaming operators.
But so far it is all talk. Meanwhile, no doubt Ford is scrutinizing the U.S. as a role model. Consumer safety will be a major issue. In addition, it is likely that online gambling will be seen as a path to economic recovery.
In the budget, this falls under a subsection on Modernizing Government, within a section titled Recover: Creating the Conditions for Growth.
In this regard, James Kilby, an analyst for Washington-based Vixio Gambling Compliance stated that legal online gambling in Ontario would be up to a $547 million market even without single-game sports betting. In fact, it could reach $1.47 billion with it.
Another issue to decide is taxes. Danielle Bush, on behalf of the Canadian Gaming Association, expects Ontario to settle on a tax rate from 18% to 20%. Legalization should produce new tax revenue in the low hundreds of millions.
It is a godsend given the ravages of the pandemic on gambling revenue. The cash cow has been sleeping. Some casinos, however, have reopened and the revenue stream is beginning to flow. So me of the many residents known to spend five hundred million gambling online are back in action.
Right now, with many offshore, foreign online sites, Canada’s gambling industry is in a gray market at the moment. Fortunately, there are many legal operators including the likes of PokerStars, Bet365 and 888.
It’s also about politics
Why is a Conservative provincial government leading the charge in Canada? In the US, the opposition to gambling on moral grounds largely comes from right-wing voters. Yet north of the border, the private sector is engaged. Conservatives back it while the liberals favor a government monopoly.
Looking to the federal level, the left-wing New Democratic Party (NDP) backs the Conservatives on sports betting along with the separatist Bloc Québecois. Reportedly, Liberal resistance is evaporating and the barrier might be removed under the current Liberal minority government.
A change of stance will be a boon to online players. Analysts give the U.S. credit for this with its on-going legalization. Plus, the competition between casinos with sportsbooks and the Canadian gambling sector is growing.
Of note, already a former bill to strike down the online gambling prohibition died in Parliament earlier this fall but now it’s right back on the agenda and likely to pass.