Ontario iGaming market to kick off April 4; theScore, FansUnite, Rivalry among potential first operators

Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO)’s subsidiary, iGaming Ontario, announced Monday that the province’s new online gaming market has its launch date scheduled for April 4, 2022. However, opposition and legal challenges are already in place.

iGO is currently working with the Government of the province and the AGCO to establish a new online gaming market that will help protect consumers and provide more choice. Private gaming operators registered with the AGCO that have executed an operating agreement with iGO, can begin offering their games to players in Ontario in April. Companies will operate gaming sites in the market on behalf of the province in accordance with these agreements.

FansUnite Entertainment’s CEO Scott Burton announced it has formally submitted an application to the AGCO. As he wrote, the company has “been proponent of the legalization of online betting across Canada and we are pleased to see the significant progress made over a short period of time”.

Penn National Gaming‘s theScore also confirmed Friday it has submitted its application to officially become an Ontario iGaming operator through an announcement issued by President and CEO Jay Snowden and theScore CEO John Levy.

“As Canada’s preeminent digital sports media brand, theScore is uniquely positioned to capitalize on the introduction of the open and regulated internet gaming market in Ontario, its home territory,” Snowden wrote.

For his part, Steven Salz, co-Founder and CEO of Rivalry, said in a statement: “We are very excited to learn that Ontario residents will have access to safe, regulated internet gaming on April 4th of this year. We support this decision and believe it is the best way forward for the province. Rivalry has been involved in the Ontario licensing process since it was first announced, and We look forward to launching services in our home market.”

In an official press release, Martha Otton, iGO’s Executive Director Spoke about the launch and said: “Consumers can be assured that companies who successfully enter the new Ontario market will have met rigorous standards of game and operator integrity, fairness, player protections and social responsibility, allowing all players to play with confidence. Prevention of underage access, ensuring compliance with applicable laws including anti-money laundering rules and regulations, and measures to enable more responsible gambling are just a few of the assurances consumers can expect in the new market as of April 4.”

“Today, most internet gaming by Ontarians takes place on websites not conducted or managed by the province. Our new internet gaming market will give consumers enhanced entertainment choice, support and the growth of a new, legal market and generate revenue that can help fund programs and services that benefit all of us.”

However, this process has faced opposition as well. The Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation stated it plans to challenge the government’s decision to move ahead with online gambling in court, claiming It violates a constitutional right to consultation with Indigenous leaders.

The community claims the government’s iGaming plans are “deeply flawed” and a move that will financially devastate their economy while setting back decades of community development efforts.

Kelly LaRocca, Chief of MSIFN, called the market launch’s announcement a “slap in the face of First Nations” as it reduces their promises of reconciliation to “a joke”. The First Nation Claims the provincial government has ignored section 35 of Canada’s Constitution, and failed to hold formal consultations with Indigenous governments.

One of Canada’s largest casino operators is also speaking out against the government’s plan. Great Canadian Gaming Corp., which operates 25 properties across the country, says while they support iGaming in principle, it will not create a level playing field that will benefit the province or its communities, while putting thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in government revenue at risk.

Ontario's Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk

Back in December, Ontario’s Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk released a 12-page report titled “Internet Gaming in Ontario”, where she questioned whether online gambling and sports betting may be “open to legal challenge under Canada’s Criminal Code”.

After examining the legality of Ontario’s proposed internet gaming model, the governance structure for internet gaming in the province, and the fairness and integrity of internet gaming in Ontario, Lysyk concluded all of these issues should be reviewed before the market opened to private operators.

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