Will Ontario’s sports betting launch affect legal online gambling in Canada?

On the 4th of April 2022, Ontario launched its legal, regulated sports betting market which has seen an influx of new international sportsbooks enter the market. The goal of this new development is based on the passing of the Safe and Regulated Sports Betting Act, which has allowed provinces in Canada to regulate themselves. A question on many Canadian minds that are not living in Ontario, is whether or not the same approach is adopted in the rest of Canada’s provinces.

The development of the so-called legal infrastructure that has led to the fledgling Ontario market was based on the receival of Royal Assent of Bill C-218, which was proposed by Saskatchewan Conservative MP Kevin Waugh.

The underlying reason for the desire to legalize sports betting in Canada was underpinned by the fact that no clear legislation existed for sports betting, and was further amplified by the fact that a large proportion of Canadian bettors were betting on offshore betting sites, which meant gambling money was streaming out of Canada. The main goal for this new world of legal gambling was to ensure that money generated from gambling in Canada would no longer be leaving the country’s shores.

The initial reaction from each of the provinces (at different times) was to legalize single-game provinces in their relative jurisdictions, with Ontario leading the way. It was no surprise then, that Ontario was the first to implement a framework for regulating international bookmakers and now has a fully functional iGaming market, with more operators joining by the day. DraftKings sportsbook is the latest to receive approval to operate in Ontario.

Based on the fact that all other provinces followed Ontario’s lead when it came to single-game betting, can we expect that the rest of the country will set up with these legal frameworks welcoming offshore bookmakers to set up shop and operate legally? Sources suggest exactly that.

There has been mentioned that Alberta and Saskatchewan are busy setting up similar frameworks, like the one set up for sports betting in Ontario. Alberta is further on down the line, having already sent out two RFPs. One of the expected sportsbooks to extend their reach in Canada is Pointsbet, with the bookmaker having hinted on Twitter that they would be making plans to enter Alberta’s market when it was set up.

What is clear (or what isn’t clear rather), is that the rest of Canada’s provinces have yet to announce how they plan on responding to the passing of the Safe and Regulated Sports Betting Act. Questions remain surrounding whether or not murky grey market offshore bookmakers will continue having stakes in these provinces, or if eventually, we will see a situation similar to the one in the US, where 17 states have set up the framework to allow online sports betting.

What can be said is that iGaming Ontario has paved the way for other Canadian provinces when it comes to the legal infrastructure that has been set up. With Alberta and Saskatchewan expecting to be fully licensed markets by the summer of 2022, it’s clear that Ontario’s approach is having a very tangible effect on the legality of online gambling in Canada.

Phhoto: iStock