26 Jul

How Ontario is Ensuring Fairness in iGaming

Is Ontario iGaming Fair – How the AGCO Regulates Online Casino Games

Is Ontario iGaming Fair – How the AGCO Regulates Online GamesIn a quarter of a century, concerns over safety and security in online gambling haven’t changed much. The software gets better, technology gets better, but the same questions and uncertainties surround the activity.

Earlier this year, Ontario welcomed a competitive iGaming market, licensing both local and international operators. The government took all the necessary steps to ensure the highest standards in player protection. Yet one question – the same question that’s been asked countless times, since the turn of the millennium – remains:

How do we know online casino games are really fair?”

Is Ontario iGaming Fair (by Traditional Standards)?

The short answer is, “Yes”. Online casino games hosted by Ontario’s authorized internet gambling operators are fair, by traditional standards.

When we say fair, we mean that they’re not rigged to pay out less than advertised or legally permissible. If a game is advertised to pay back 95% of its intake, it will do so. Not in the short-term, of course, but over the long-term, it will achieve that payback percentage.

The province of Ontario has laws in place that determine the minimum payout percentage for gambling amusements. Slot machines, for example, must award no less than 85% of their intake back to players in winnings. That is, for every $100 wagered on a slot, it must award a minimum of 85% back overall. Most games pay better than this, but it’s a good point of reference in determining what the province considers “fair”.

The games found at Ontario’s AGCO-registered, iGO-authorized internet gambling sites are digital mimics of the games you would find in a land-based casino. If you find traditional games to be fair – table games like blackjack, roulette, baccarat, and craps, and machine-based games like slots and video poker – then yes, these games are absolutely, positively, certifiably fair.

What Does Fair Mean to You?

If your perception of ‘fair’ means a player should have a 50/50 chance of winning, well then, no. The games are not that fair. No casino game offers that kind of odds. They never have. Every gambling amusement is designed to win more for the casino than it pays out to players. It’s what the industry calls house edge. Some games have a lower house edge than others, but none come with a natural player advantage.

It’s not just casino games either. Every sports bet is designed to benefit the bookie more so than the bettor. When you see odds of 105 or -105, that extra 5 represents the sportsbook’s expected 5% profit. It’s no different than a slot machine with a 95% return to player (RTP), promising the casino collects 5% take from all wagers.

Yes, players do win. Some win a little, and some win a lot. But overall, more players will experience losses than those who experience wins. It is the nature of gambling; just another form of entertainment that you should expect to pay for. If you get lucky and win, fantastic! If not, the entertainment value should be worth the money spent.

What’s so Special about AGCO & iGO in Ontario?

The AGCO is the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario. It is the government agency in charge of regulating all alcohol, gambling, and cannabis-related productions in the province. It is the AGCO’s responsibility to ensure honesty and integrity in the market. The AGCO has been doing this job since its founding in 1998, reporting directly to the Ministry of the Attorney General.

The iGO, short for iGaming Ontario, is another regulatory body. This one works directly with the AGCO and provincial leaders, providing oversight of the market and all of its operators. Once a company registers with the AGCO and receives its approval to operate in the market, it must then pass the iGO’s accreditation process. The iGO is responsible for monitoring the market and enforcing regulations, among other things.

How Does the AGCO Ensure Fairness of iGaming?

The AGCO doesn’t just register online gambling operators. It also registers the software vendors that supply the gaming content, as well as the third-party auditing firms that test the software.

In the spirit of competition, the AGCO is authorizing a host of independent testing labs. Thus, operators are able to choose which testing firm certifies its software; just as Ontarians are able to choose which online casino, sportsbook or poker room they want to play at.

The current list of AGCO-registered Independent Testing Labs (ITLs) includes:

According to the AGCO, ITLs must scrutinize, “Key components of iGaming systems such as games and random number generators”. These components must adhere to the Registrar’s Standards for Internet Gaming. No iGaming company will get the AGCO’s approval to operate in Ontario before achieving ITL certification.

How Do I Know if a Gambling Site has ITL Certification?

The fact that a website is authorized and licensed to operate in Ontario should signify ITL certification. It can be difficult, in some cases, to determine exactly which ITL certifies which brands, especially when it comes to online casino operators.

The problem is that most online casinos partner with multiple software brands to provide a more diverse gaming experience. If a casino is powered by half a dozen different software suppliers, it would need to publish the certification logo and documentation for all relative testing labs.

That may not sound like such a big deal, but when you consider the fact that today’s gambling operations tend to employ dozens of software brands, it becomes a bit more tedious. LeoVegas, for example, has more than 50 software suppliers supporting its casino games menu.

Thus, it really does make more sense to determine whether a gambling operation boasts an iGO license, rather than trying to find out which ITL certifications its software suppliers carry. You are certainly welcome to do so on your own. You’d need to visit the website of each software company and search the text for its certification listings. Or, simply look for the iGaming Ontario logo at the very top, or very bottom, of the online casino, sportsbook or poker room you want to check up on.

See Also: List of iGO Licensed Online Gambling Sites

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