Written by Craig Garbe, Christian Gauthier and S. Paul Mantini
The scheduled launch of Ontario's competitive internet gaming market is fast approaching. Though originally targeted for December 2021, it is now expected that the launch is more likely to occur in Q1 2022, assuming that the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario's (AGCO) new subsidiary "iGaming Ontario" is able to finalize and enter into agreements with prospective operators by that time.
The launch is an exciting development for online gaming in Ontario. This expansion of the province's online gaming market will permit private operators to offer single-event sports betting (which became legal in Canada only a few months ago) as well as many other forms of casino gaming and gambling (see our initial post about these developments, Pandemic Payoff: Can the AGCO, and the Potential for Single-Event Wagering, Reinvigorate Legal Online Gaming in Ontario?).
iGaming Ontario is now starting to work out the terms of the commercial agreement it expects to soon have in place with prospective operators. A term sheet for that agreement was made available this summer, and drafts are now available to those prospective operators who have registered through the iGaming Ontario portal and signed a non-disclosure agreement.
Key Considerations for Prospective Operators and Suppliers
While it is the terms of the commercial agreement with iGaming Ontario that will be the most critical, all prospective operators can and should begin the process now to complete the parallel registration with the AGCO that will be required of all online operators, much the same as AGCO registration is currently required for all land-based operators and those who supply certain services to them. Those who wish to supply certain services to prospective operators should also begin the parallel registration process if they have not already. All such registrations will be made through the AGCO's existing online portal, and the AGCO has published guides to assist both prospective operators and prospective suppliers. As in the case of the land-based gaming world, certain supplier exemptions apply and should be carefully considered when determining registration requirements.
Prospective operators and suppliers should also take note that registration with the AGCO, or participation with iGaming Ontario, is expected to require a complete cessation of all unregulated online gaming activity, both by the operator and those with whom it is associated, as the AGCO and iGaming Ontario attempt to use this new and regulated online model to curb unregulated online gaming in Ontario.
The coming months will be exciting ones in the Canadian gaming market as the contractual terms of iGaming Ontario's agreements are finalized with operators, and as Ontario takes significant steps to try to create a new legal online gaming market and eliminate existing unregulated sites.
As always, the Bennett Jones Gaming & Hospitality team, as well as our Governmental Affairs & Public Policy group, are available to assist you as you look to identify and implement business strategies in this sector.