Canada’s most populous province, Ontario, recently elected a new Premier, and in doing so may have also sent themselves on a trajectory towards the modern world of casino gambling. Gambling in Canada is generally legal, but is handled on a province-by-province basis. In Ontario, casino-style gambling is available both online and in brick-and-mortar facilities, of which there are quite a few. All gambling activities are overseen and regulated by the Ontario Lottery & Gaming Corporation, otherwise known as the OLG.
The plans that Premier Doug Ford and his Tory government have in mind are nothing groundbreaking, but there is widespread belief that they would make a positive impact in what is becoming a directionless Ontario gambling industry.
In all reality, because every form of gambling in Ontario is controlled by the state through the OLG, it is a monopoly in its purest form. An unfortunate byproduct of this is that the casino product outputted in Ontario leaves a lot to be desired, especially as it relates to the online casino and lottery that is offered by the state. The online casino, which can be found at PlayOLG.ca, employs software that is dated and rarely updated nor added to. The lottery is as good as any other, however there is a bug within the downloadable OLG application that does not allow you to purchase lottery tickets. If you simply log on to the website, however, purchasing lottery tickets can be done quite simply. It is situations such as these that prove there is a need for change in Ontario, and fast.
According to a budgetary release from the ruling Tory party, there is intentions to “treat adults like adults and establish a competitive market for online legal gambling. This will increase consumer choice while protecting consumers from illegal websites.” The release does not go too much further into what this vague statement ultimately means, but most are interpreting it as meaning that the closed-off online casino experiment in Ontario may soon open its doors to allow for multiple, competing operators. Something that will increase revenues, or so it is believed.
According to Calvin Ayre’s website, the OLG collected more than C$7billion in revenues last year. Of that massive figure, not even C$100million came from online gambling. In neighboring provinces, the situation was quite different as online casino revenues are quite large and seem to continue to grow on an annual basis.
All things considered, the statements made this week are nothing more than empty promises right now. There have been no new bills introduced, so we are still a long ways away from real change; or so it seems. With that being said, there are hundreds of millions of dollars spent by Ontarians at offshore online casinos, so if the Tory government wants to see gambling revenues increase, they should act fast.
Another intention of Premier Ford is to legalize single-sport betting both online and in casinos. The aforementioned budgetary release stated this intention and cited the strengthening legalization efforts (and jobs created as a result) in the US as a blueprint to mirror. As it currently stands, sports betting in Canada is only allowed in the form of parlays, which is making a single wager on two or more outcomes. This is not such an attractive prospect because the sports bettors who wager high-dollar sums are interested in single-game wagers, not parlays. If Ontario can follow the likes of Pennsylvania and legalize “traditional” sports betting, the potential revenues that can be created for the province are nothing to scoff at.
Just as it is in the United States, Canadian lawmakers are well-aware of the fact that millions upon millions of dollars are being exported to other countries that are more favorable to hosting online casinos. In that same vein, we are increasingly seeing politicians who might have previously frowned upon legalized casino gambling turn a kinder eye to the idea. With the ever-present need to increase revenues hanging over their shoulders, it seems as though the sensible decision to relax prohibitory laws relating to casinos and gambling is something that lawmakers are finally getting behind.