Beginning Monday, the online gaming world will be set to change in the Canadian province of Ontario. While the rest of the country will be able to partake of various offshore online gaming offerings, Ontarians will be reckoning with new laws intended to rein in the online gaming industry in the province. The initial result will be a mixture of “official” and “unofficial” offerings, but that is expected to change quickly to preserve the integrity of gaming licenses.
Who’s In? And What About…
There is a list of sites that have already gone through the process of licensing with the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO). These sites will be legal in the province of Ontario when the switch is flipped come Monday, April 4:
These companies are, to this point, the only ones that have been licensed for operations in the province.
There are several other potential operators that could join in. With BetMGM in, partypoker’s entry may not come for a bit (the two are owned by the same company, Entain), if at all. There are some thoughts that it may be a part of a joint deal with BetMGM, but there is not anything set in stone for that to happen.
But the real question is what might happen with the major players in the online gaming industry, PokerStars, partypoker and GGPoker. Neither company yet has been able to secure a license with the AGCO but are said to be “negotiating” to gain entry. This is presenting something that, while it is workable, is not going to make those companies that have gone through the licensing process very happy.
The “Gray Market” Still Exists
Because they are in the process of licensing, the AGCO is allowing companies like PokerStars, GGPoker, and partypoker to continue to operate in the province despite the regulations banning “offshore sites” from providing access to Ontarians. There has not been any distinct period given for the licensing to be completed OR for the companies to remove their product from access by citizens of Ontario. In essence, the “gray market” that has previously existed in the Canadian online gaming market would continue as the status quo.
That, however, will not and should not sit well with those who have earned the licenses from the AGCO. Because they are abiding by the law and have the proper paperwork in place from the start of action on Monday, they were supposed to have access to the Ontario gaming market and NOT the “offshore” sites that have dominated the industry. Thus, do NOT expect the “grace period” for those who have not been licensed yet to be a lengthy one.
The reasons for the passage of online gaming regulations in Ontario is the same reasons that many states in the U. S. and countries in Europe have enacted laws. In their belief, the governments of these areas have deemed that it is in the best interests of their citizens to be protected against unscrupulous operators. It also allows for taxation of not only the online offerings but also the players, bringing in much needed revenues.
How long the “gray market” will last in Ontario is not known. It would not be advisable, however, for players to leave large sums of money on these operations. While PokerStars, GGPoker and partypoker are all well-respected companies in the gaming industry, changes to gaming laws always are problematic when it comes to retrieving money.