Canada’s US-informed gambling policy – is it for the best?

gambling policy

In August 2021, the Canadian government announced that it had taken the decision reform the laws surrounding online gambling in the country. The gambling legislation in Canada had been murky at best up until that point, and remains just as murky in most provinces and territories. One key tenet of the legislative reform, was putting the law making power in the hands of provincial governments, a tactic that sounds somewhat identical to the approach taken in the US. Is this for the best, or is Canada a different beast altogether? 

After the Canadian government gave each of the country’s provinces the go-ahead to legalize online gambling, only Ontario has successfully developed and implemented a legal framework and licensing system. Since legal sports betting launched in Ontario, almost 30 different online sports betting operators have entered the market, with more brands entering weekly. 

Ontario’s goal has been clear, to develop a rich, and diverse iGaming market, that is safe, and ensures users are well protected from potentially harmful operators, and their practices. So far, the province has provided online sportsbooks, casino, and poker sites from every corner of the globe to operate in the province. 

The licensing system is quite strict. The Alcohol and Gaming Commission has clearly stated that if operators want to do business in Ontario, they must apply for, and receive the Ontario license, regardless if they have other licenses in Canada already. Prior to the launch in Ontario the Kahnawake Gaming Commission issued license to local and international betting operators, however Ontario no longer recognizes them, an issue that has now boiled over

Ontario has also laid down the law, by removing the ability of operators, and their affiliates, to advertise any inducements in the province. In this case, an inducement is defined as any evidence of a reward for the completion of an action, so welcome bonuses, promotional offers, and even better priced odds are not to be advertised outside the operator websites themselves. 

What have other provinces done? 

The first reaction of all provinces in Canada, after the announcement that they now had the ability to govern online gambling as they saw fit, was to introduce single game betting. Single game betting refers to the wagering of outcomes on single events, instead of multiple, which prior to August 2021, was the only form of legal gambling. This is known as betting on parlays, a bet type that is extremely difficult to win. 

Aside from this implementation, all of Canada’s other provinces and territories have been quite inactive, and are still allowing grey market bookmakers to continue their business in the province. 

As it stands, Saskatchewan has been the only other province to announce a new implementation, which involves the province providing one sole iGaming product to it’s users, and no more. Essentially, this is the opposite approach to the one taken by Ontario. 

As for the rest of the provinces and territories in Canada, only time will tell as to which direction they will take. 

What have the early results shown us? 

There is no doubting that the early results for Ontario show us that their approach has paid off. Their quarter on quarter growth is sitting fat and pretty at 60%, with many online gamblers in the province expressing satisfaction at the direction the province has taken. 

Whether the same will be true for Saskatchewan’s approach will be appreciated like Ontario’s has been remains to be seen. Their approach is somewhat risky, as is any endeavour that revolves around putting all your eggs into one basket. As more and more provinces develop their own frameworks, more data will be available to view if Canada’s provinces have done the best job in this new landscape.