29 Jun

AGCO Slaps 2 Ontario Sportsbooks with Fines

Two Ontario Online Sportsbooks Penalized for Taking Junior Hockey Bets

The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) is out for blood, targeting provincial iGaming operators for compliance violations. Two sportsbook operations, BV Gaming and Fitzdares Canada, are on their hit list. Both are reeling from the impact of hefty penalties after they were caught accepting wagers on prohibited sports leagues.

BV Gaming and Fitzdares are paying fines for accepting wagers on the Canadian Hockey League (CHL). While this may not seem problematic at first glance, Ontario regulations impose a strict ban against CHL betting. Here’s why…

Ontario Online Sportsbooks Violate CHL Betting Ban

The problem is that CHL isn’t just a professional ice hockey league. It consists of the Ontario Hockey League, Western Hockey League, and Québec Major Junior Hockey League.

The issue at hand becomes blatantly apparent in those three league names. The Québec Major Junior Hockey League is a minor league made up of young athletes, many of which are still minors themselves. That fact was enough for provincial leaders to strike out any possibility of accepting wagers on CHL sports, regardless of sub-league or division. They did so by scripting the follow regulation:

CHL Betting Prohibited

Paragraph 15 of Standard 4.34 of the Ontario iGaming Standards and Requirements states:

4.34 Operators offering sport and event betting products shall ensure that all bets offered meet the following criteria [Amended: February, 2022]:.

  1. Bets on minor league sports in Canada, including the Canadian Hockey League (CHL), are prohibited.

Protecting Sports Integrity and the Public Interest

In a statement, COO Dave Phillips of AGCO, explains the agency’s commitment to sport integrity and player protection:

“As the regulator of Ontario’s sports betting industry, the AGCO is resolved to maintain the integrity of sports betting which, in turn, may serve to protect the integrity of sport,” said Phillips. “This includes a clear prohibition on offering bets in Ontario on minor league sports, including Canadian major junior hockey.

“We will continue to carefully monitor Ontario’s sports betting markets to ensure the public interest is protected.”

For this offense, the regulator is imposing a fine of $15,000 per violation.

That doesn’t sound like much, but it’s only the beginning. No doubt, subsequent infractions – either by the same operators for different violations, or different operators for the same violation – will incur increasingly larger fines. That’s generally how penalization for non-0compliance works in the iGaming industry. After a few nonchalant slaps, regulators get fed up and begin launching the book at repeat offenses/offenders.

Why Not Just Ban Minor Leagues?

The truth is, it is not the prerogative of Ontario to convenience operators, but rather to protect the integrity of sports and sports betting, as well as the people who bet on them. Before enacting legislation, it must be pored over with a fine-tooth comb, covering all bases and eliminating potential loopholes. Thus, it is far easier to invoke a sweeping ban on a complete league that caters, in part, to minors, than to script specific laws pertaining to sub-division leagues.

As much as we might want to bet on a major league CHL match, we have to respect the high standard at which Ontario is conducting iGaming. Maintaining the integrity of sports, and the minors that play them, should the highest priority.

A Year of Expensive Lesson – Surely More to Come

The fines imposed on BV Gaming (BetVictor) and Fitzdares Canada are just the latest from provincial regulators. The AGCO made clear that it would not tolerate compliance violations. It’s been making good on that pledge from the start.

In April 2022, shortly after the launch of Ontario’s iGaming market, two operators learned just how serious AGCO takes its duties. PointsBet and BetMGM Canada were penalized for violating the strict advertising guidelines. They paid a combined $78,000 for their discretions; ($48k fine to PointsBet, $30k to BetMGM).

A year later in April 2023, Bunchberry Ltd, LeoVegas and Mobile Incorporated Ltd were feeling the sting. Each was found in violation of hosting uncertified slot machines. Mobile Inc. Ltd., operator of Conquestador Casino, earned a cherry on top for integrating gaming software that was not yet authorized in Ontario. The end result was a $30k fine to Mobile Inc, while LeoVegas and Bunchberry (d.b.a. ComeOn!) were forced to pay $25k and $15k respectively.

“The AGCO’s Registrar’s Standards for Internet Gaming are meant to ensure that player protections, game integrity, responsible gambling safeguards and anti-money laundering protections are in place… to bring the world’s best online gambling experiences to the province in a safer environment, helping to protect players and provide more choice.”

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