Ontario Canada’s liberalized open market model for online casino and sports gambling has been in operation for a year now and it has become a fiercely competitive market. European operator CoolBet got in on the first day and pulled out of the market in March, less than one year into the endeavor.
Prior to the market’s official launch on April 4, 2022, Ontarians either gambled at a local casino, at Play OLG online, or they went offshore to play at a site licensed in Malta, Gibraltar, the Isle of Man, Alderney, or even the Caribbean jurisdiction of Curacao.
Now, according to a survey by Ipsos, the bulk of players are all happily spinning away at regulated sites available in the province thanks to a collaboration between iGaming Ontario (iGO), the Government of Ontario, and the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO). The survey found that over 85% of those who gambled online in the last three months gambled at a regulated site.
From 70% offshore to 85% Province-Regulated?
However, that top-line number can’t tell the whole story. The Attorney General released a report on July 06, 2021, stating that 70% of all online gambling was done at “unregulated, grey market websites, with limited, if any, consumer protection and responsible gaming measures,” and that the assumed flight of capital was some billion dollars a year. If all of that gambling activity seems to have come home to roost, the open competitive online gambling market must be a huge success – at least revenue-wise for the province.
However, as is often the case when studies are commissioned by stakeholders, not all of the important numbers are easy to find. One of the major arguing points for regulated online gambling was the potential to reap revenues from single-event online sportsbetting in the province which the AG report estimated to be a $14 billion-a-year industry in Canada. It’s absolutely unclear if the Ontario market has captured even a sliver of that number.
Some reports following on the heels of the Ipsos survey results suggest that province-regulated online gambling has almost entirely displaced the previous practice of placing bets offshore, but that is not quite true on its face.
The AGCO seems to be taking a more realistic tack in its conclusions about the first year. Registrar and CEO of the AGCO, Tom Mungham said: “A key objective in this first year has been to move Ontario players from playing on unregulated sites to the regulated market so that they would benefit from high standards of operator and game integrity, fairness and player protections including responsible gambling safeguards. Although there’s still much work to be done, we’re pleased to see such a substantial shift towards gaming on regulated sites so far, and everything that it represents for players and for the province.”
According to Ipsos:
85.3% of respondents who have gambled online in Ontario over the past three months report having wagered on a regulated website.
14.7% of respondents who have gambled online in Ontario over the past three months report having wagered only on unregulated websites.
Further, among the 85.3% who are using regulated websites, Ipsos’ study found that 19.5% have wagered on a combination of regulated and unregulated websites.
These numbers tell us that over 30% of active players in Ontario still use offshore gambling sites.
Another study was done by PrimeOnline LTD, a SkillOnNet operator with the branded Ontario online casinos Spin Genie.ca, the holder of an Ontario iGaming license in good standing. That study found that 43% of players in Ontario began gambling online in the last year (since the launch) and about a quarter of players (24%) had only been playing for six months or less.
The aforementioned survey used roughly the same methodology and had about the same margin of error and confidence interval as the Ipsos survey.
How Many Know if They are Gambling at a Licensed Site?
Somewhat striking among the findings and begging more detail to the actual questions asked in the Ipsos survey, the Prime survey noted that less than three-quarters (72%) of players queried were even aware that OLG.ca (the official Ontario Lottery website) is regulated and they believe that other major websites are unregulated – but – players are most likely to believe that whichever website they visit is indeed regulated.
The parts of the survey released to the public did provide some demographic information which can tell us a little bit about the most common type of online gambler in Ontario.
During the last 3 months, Ontarians who have placed real money bets online are overwhelmingly male (68.1%), between the ages of 19 and 34 (45.8%), have earned a University Degree+ (39.5%), and make less than $75,000 per year (54.9%).
There are 45 operators with about 70 live real money gambling websites in Ontario. AGCO has certified over 5,000 games for online use.
According to a CBC News report posted on Jan 17, 2022, a “Private & Confidential” report compiled for the government stated that the province could lose more than $2.5b in revenue as players migrate from brick-and-mortar gameplay to online only. In decades of reviewing such doom and gloom assessments, none have proved true to date.
Jeffrey Haas, senior vice-president of DraftKings Inc. made the correct call on that report stating: “People who are playing in online casinos and online sportsbooks and online poker rooms will continue to do so, except they’re going to go from playing offshore to onshore,” according to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. “And anybody who continues to walk into real casinos in order to play games there will continue to do so.”
Source: Ontario iGaming Market Channelization (PDF), Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario, April 3, 2023