Trick or treat?

Ontario’s legal, regulated online gambling and sports betting market has been up and running for six months and in that time, a number of gaming operators have received their licenses and launched their offerings. At the end of October, anyone who has not been granted a license to operate in the province must stop.

On Tuesday, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) announced that all unregulated gambling activities must cease by October 31. Those who continue to operate or partner with companies that operate without licenses could be at risk of not having the chance to acquire a license in the future.

Regulated online gambling is certainly a good thing for players, as it requires operators to abide by strict rules and gives customers protection. But it is an interesting situation in Ontario, as the new regulated market also hurts online poker players, specifically.

Fewer players at the tables

Online poker rooms (and all online gambling sites in Ontario) cannot share player pools with jurisdictions outside of the province. In other words, poker players in Ontario are ring fenced from the rest of the world. That includes the rest of Canada – before the regulations took effect, poker players in Ontario could play on any online poker site they wanted, with players from the rest of the country and most of the world (the United States a glaring exception). Now, they are restricted to sitting at virtual tables with just players from Ontario, as those are the only customers the regulated sites can accept.

Thus, it’s a double-edged sword. There was once a time when many poker players wanted governments to stay out of it and let the online poker industry police itself. But now, I think the vast majority of players see regulation as a good thing, as it makes the industry “legit” and gives customers protection. But for Ontario poker players, that comes at the price of losing player traffic and, in turn, game selection and bigger tournament prize pools.

WSOP heads north

The latest online poker operator to launch its regulated site in Ontario is, it’s first significant venture outside of the United States. Interestingly, while WSOP uses 888poker’s platform in the US, it is using GGPoker’s software in Ontario. Perhaps it’s not surprising, though, as GGPoker and the World Series of Poker are partners – the “international” version of the WSOP Online is on GGPoker outside of the US.

Ontarians who have been playing on GGPoker will no longer be able to do so and must transition their accounts to is the last of what one would call the “major” poker platforms to go live in the regulated Ontario market. 888, BetMGM, partypoker, and bwin all launched in the first week back in April. PokerStars launched in June.

Another notable name, the iPoker Network, will also launch in Ontario at some point. Its parent company, Playtech, announced its intention to do so this summer.

Image credit: Steve Shook via Flickr

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