In early 2022, the province of Ontario was coming to the realization that change was afoot in the online gaming world, at least for them. The provincial government had passed regulations on all online gaming. This included virtually every gaming activity that Ontarians had previously gone to “rest of the world” companies to participate. Sports betting, online casinos, daily fantasy sports (DFS), and online poker fell under these new rules, which took effect in April 2022.
What do people who have to live with these new gaming rules think? Poker News Daily asked a group of the players what they thought of the changes, both good and bad. The resulting honest interpretation from these players indicates that, while they were not against the regulation of the industry and the consumer protections that came along with it, they were fine with the way things had been done. They also yearn for the days when there were full online rooms for the activities they enjoyed.
WHY Did Ontario Do This?
Many of the players asked why the provincial government of Ontario took this step of regulation. “(It) almost makes me wonder if the Ontario government was lobbied by the casinos to do this,” Gordon said in our discussions. “It seemed to be a good way to get people back into the physical poker rooms after a couple of years of playing online…(maybe) they just wanted access to more tax dollars off the companies and the Ontario citizens.”
James was a little more direct with his criticisms of the provincial government. “The government and IGaming.ca hoodwinked the poker players of Ontario and any tourists who may enjoy playing poker online while visiting our great province,” he said. “They alienated us from the other Canadian poker players and alienated us from the global poker market. Canadians miss playing against the rest of the world…it was an absolute betrayal, and we will remember this for future years and decades to come.”
Excellent Breakdown of the Pros and Cons
Several players were able to weigh the pros and cons of the situation. They recognized that the regulations allowed for reputable companies to now serve the market – rather than the dicey unregulated rooms offshore – but there is something missing.
Robbie broke these issues down in a well thought out response. “The pros are there are smaller tournaments pools. You do not spend as much time online grinders and it is better for the casual players. The tax revenues for the province are a good thing and, although I cannot prove it, I feel a better sense of security on these sites – probably less bots.”
There were some downsides that Robbie saw, however. “The small player pool does not allow for large guarantees or the ability to build a big prize pool. Satellites to events in other countries will be something we miss out on,” Robbie noted. “The government missed one point, however. Casino gaming and sports betting do not need a large player pool – poker does. Poker should have been reviewed differently and with a better understanding of the games needed for a larger pool of players.”
Always Look at the Bright Side…
Some players chose to look at the bright side of the situation. “With the best online pros having to leave the province to maintain their income, the non-pro regs could make more profit now,” Buddy said in the conversation. “You’re not going to beat the AGCO (the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario), so you might as well join to try to win WSOP rings and tickets to the WSOP.”
Grant echoed many of the statements here in saying, “It’s great for the casual player who wants to play after work for small prize pools. Terrible for players looking for large fields and big prize pools,” he stated. “There’s absolutely zero action during the day, however.” Another player, Carl, noted the lack of DFS in the new Ontario system. “Fantasy sports has been vaporized in Ontario…it’s a huge pastime for tons of Ontarians who could not wait for the NFL (National Football League) to roll around every August. I can guarantee viewership is also down which affects local sports channels and ad revenue.”
What is the Endgame?
We are coming up on the six-month anniversary of the enactment of the Ontario regulations and there are just as many upset with the situation as are happy with it. What improvements could be made that would switch the sentiment of players? How could the AGCO be more responsive to the players, perhaps taking their thoughts and ideas under consideration? It is a situation that will continue to bear watching as Ontario navigates the stormy waters of being a ring-fenced gaming province.