Online Gambling Ontario: What iGaming Regulation Means to You
Ontarians have been gambling over the internet for the last 25 years. A lot has changed in that time. It’s not just about the quantity and quality of games anymore. The most significant changes have come by way of regulatory action. In the late 1990s, regulation for iGaming didn’t exist. It was a virtual free for all, spanning all corners of the globe.
Regulation came on very slowly across Canada, with Ontario launching a single, home grown, provincially regulated gambling website in 2015; (11 years after British Columbia pioneered Canadian iGaming). That didn’t have too much impact on the locals, though. Prior to 2015, and for all proceeding years up until now, Canadians have enjoyed legal access to offshore casinos, poker rooms and sports betting sites. In just a couple of weeks, however, another big change is coming to Ontario.
Online Gambling Ontario: Competition is Coming to Town
The number one thing Ontario has been lacking since the enactment of provincial regulation is a competitive market. There’s been access to a highly competitive foreign market, with thousands of sites operating from European and Caribbean nations, but never domestic. That’s about to change.
On April 4, 2022, the Government of Ontario, in tandem with the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO), will authorize, license and regulate an assortment of online gambling operations. Only legal age residents of the province will be able to gamble on these websites.
The question now, for those with an interest in online casino and sports betting, is this:
“What does regulation mean to me?”
What exactly is the province doing? How will it impact those who already bet at Ontario’s PlayOLG, or through international websites? And for those new to iGaming, what’s the better choice? We aim to answer these questions and more with the following Q&A.
How is Ontario iGaming Regulation Changing?
To answer this, we have to back up just a bit. In 2015, Ontario followed Canada’s federal directive, stating that gambling could only be regulated and administered by the provincial government. Thus, Ontario launched its own PlayOLG online casino. It was able to attract a decent number of Ontarians, but the vast majority were continuing to play at offshore gambling sites.
In ensuing years, Ontario struggled to write legislation authorizing a competitive market, similar to those in Europe and, more recently, some US states. They finally completed that task last year, and in early 2022, Ontario announced it would accept license applications from global iGaming operators. Those who receive a license may begin operating as early as April 4, 2022; hardly two weeks from today.
How Reputable are Ontario Licensed Online Gambling Sites?
The most beneficial aspect of Ontario regulating and licensing private online casinos is that players will no longer have to question an operator’s reputation. With international casinos, you never quite know who you can and can’t trust; not without due diligence on your part, at least.
If a website has a license to operate in Ontario, you can rest easy knowing your own government has already done the leg work. The operator has passed rigorous background checks and software tests, and is in compliance with all local laws, including strict player protections.
What Types of Bets Will Licensees Offer in Ontario?
Online gambling operators can apply for an Ontario gaming license to offer online casino games, poker games, and/or sports betting.
How will Ontario Licensed Sites Differ from International Sites?
This is perhaps one of the biggest questions of all, especially for Ontarians who’ve been gambling with offshore sites for years. What can Ontario’s competitive market offer that international websites cannot? Realistically, there will only be two differences. These new sites will 1) have an Ontario license, and 2) offer domestic customer support.
That first difference is decorative, at best. The second, however, could impact players who have questions or complaints about an operator. Local regulation means there’s players have a local office to turn to, should a problem arise. Such problems are rare, even in international markets. However, it does equate to greater protection of player rights, and government monitoring of operator responsibilities.
What About Website Features? (Games, Promos, RTPs)
Don’t expect to see to many differences between domestic and international gambling sites when it comes to features. By licensing private companies, the competitive nature of the business will inherently lead to greater choice for consumers.
You can expect Ontario licensees to promote massive gaming menus, generous bonuses, rewarding loyalty programs; everything the international market has been providing Canadians for years.
The only limitations will come according to restrictions within provincial and federal laws. The most noteworthy among them is limitations on payout percentages. According to the AGCO:
“A casino or slot facility in Ontario may choose an overall payout rate higher than 85%, but cannot set a machine with a lower payout. In order to change the payout rate of any slot machine, a request must be submitted to the Commission for approval and inspection.”
This law applies to both land-based and online casino slot machines.
How do Ontario’s Slot RTPs Differ from Offshore Casinos?
Prior to the approval of competition between private operators, RTPs in Ontario were notably lower than international markets. Now that local online casinos are becoming competitive, we are expecting higher RTPs on slot machines and other games of chance. We may even see land casinos increasing their RTPs to better compete with online gaming.
Due to overwhelmingly saturation in international markets, players have been enjoying extremely high RTPs in the 96-98% range. Meanwhile, Ontario’s casinos, online and on land, have been averaging just 91-93%. Only time will tell if operators of online gambling in Ontario will raise their RTPs to match that of offshore websites.
Is There a Way to Determine an Online Slot Machine’s RTP?
In Ontario, yes. Local law stipulates that casinos must make the overall odds and payout percentage of each gambling game known to consumers. However, the AGCO has long questioned whether casinos are doing enough to make this information readily available. At land casinos in particular, the AGCO believes only players who know how and where to find such information are benefiting from it.
The odds and RTPs of online slots are generally found in the game’s info sheet. You can access it by pressing the Info or Pay Table button on the game screen. However, most games have multiple pages of instructions to scroll through. The odds and RTP are likely to be found at the very bottom, or the very last page, of this information.
Adalene Lucas: is our jack of all trades here at DBC. She is a skilled coder, gambler, writer and webmaster. She lives in Manitoba where she enjoys the lush landscapes and camping near Tulabi Falls. Nature gives her inspiration to write. When she's not immersed in nature, her favorite words are "game theory". She lives with her husband and their two Labradors, Kophy and Whisper.