The year 2022 proved monumental for the Canadian gambling scene. Ontario, one of its biggest provinces, finally established a legal online gambling market. Even so, the journey to this finish line was long and challenging. Not everyone in the Great White North was pleased with this development, and various problems arose before Canada's internet gambling sector launched.
Yet, the iGaming industry in Canada hasn't stopped growing and developing. Plenty of developments have taken place since April 2022, and they’ve all directly affected the legality of online gambling in Toronto, the capital of Ontario.
Gambling Laws in Canada
Before we discuss the launch of Ontario’s online gambling market, it is important to understand its origins. The gambling scene in Canada has gone through numerous changes throughout the years.
The country hasn’t always boasted lenient gambling laws it has today. Namely, Canadian Criminal Code, legislation that’s still in force, proclaimed all gambling activities illegal across the country in the late 1890s. It was not before the 1970s that the residents of the Great White North saw any changes in this sphere.
As casinos, racetracks, and sports betting have grown in popularity; it has led the Canadian authorities to reconsider their original decision. They agreed to assign control over the management and regulation of gambling activities to individual provinces in the 1980s. This legislation has remained more or less the same since then.
Today, Canadian provinces have the power to certify, monitor, and regulate all gambling activities within their borders. All similar operations that are not directly “managed and conducted” by the provinces’ official licensing board or authority are deemed illegal, including online gambling.
Provincial governments are in charge of all betting activities online conducted by their citizens and visitors. As a result, a few of them even built their own online betting outlets — British Columbia and Manitoba established PlayNow.com, Quebec developed EspaceJeux.com, and Ontario created PlayOLG.com.
iGaming Ontario Launch
For several years, Toronto gambling fans had only two options for enjoying their hobby — PlayOLG.com and offshore online casinos. While such a selection is more than some of its neighbours to the south boast, the choice was still limited.
Several factors motivated Toronto’s home province to be the first in Canada to open its online gambling market. Its main driving force was the residents' interest in online gambling. Ontarians have always shown their preference for this pastime, but the pandemic has emphasized it further. Studies estimated that Ontario players spend around $500 million a year on online gambling, mainly on platforms operating offshore.
This data suggested two things: that there was something missing in Ontario’s current online gambling offer and that the province had the potential to become one of the biggest legal online gambling markets in North America. The next step was obvious — the provincial government of Ontario decided to open the market to private operators in November 2020 and officially passed the necessary legislation in September 2021.
Ontario’s official gambling authority, Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) and a newly-formed subsidiary, iGaming Ontario (iGO), would oversee the new market. The two regulatory bodies became responsible for issuing licences to online operators and suppliers and banning any gaming brands from the market. AGCO published its updated iGaming sports and event betting regulatory standards, including the changes regarding advertising and integrity, around the same time.
Numerous candidates, including some of the industry’s biggest names like Bet365, Play’n GO, Inspired Entertainment, and so on, started applying for permits almost immediately. Sixteen operators attained their licences in time to offer their gambling services on the first day of the official launch. The market went live on April 4, 2022, and the first wager rolled in just 50 seconds later.
Ontario's iGaming Legalization Issues
Most Canadians were overjoyed with the announcement and launch of Ontario’s iGaming market. They saw it as a wise financial investment and an inevitable development in the context of the modern business landscape. Nevertheless, not everyone in Canada shared the same sentiment.
Several First Nations communities and brick-and-mortar casino owners expressed frustration over the new launch. They’ve voiced their concerns regarding the future of land-based gambling. Most were worried they’d lose their customers to the new market, significantly damaging their business.
They also pointed out that problems like these could directly affect the province of Ontario. Closing land-based gambling establishments would result in fewer job opportunities. Plus, the availability and accessibility of online casinos could lead to an increase in gambling problems within the province.
On top of these issues, Ontario gambling regulators had other difficulties prior to the launch. Speculation about bureaucratic obstacles related to the market spread months ahead of its opening.
While none of it was confirmed, there was talk of problems with game conditions, data management, and security requirements the new regulatory system will have. The fact that the Ministry of Attorney General spokesperson at the time refused to provide any concrete information about the timeframe of the launch for a while only fueled the rumours.
iGaming Ontario Advantages
Despite the previous problems, Ontario’s official online gambling market launch brought plenty of benefits. First and foremost, Toronto and other Ontario gambling enthusiasts gained a much wider selection of casinos. The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) casino, poker and sports betting offered a few options, but not nearly as many as today.
Ontario is now home to numerous world-famous platforms packed with rich casino and sports betting portfolios. Thanks to its security protocols against money laundering, terrorist financing activities, and fraud, both players and operators will be protected from any illegal activity. Those who crave variety won’t have to risk their sensitive data by registering with unreliable offshore providers.
Yet, Ontarians aren’t the only ones who’ll benefit from this launch. The availability of quality gaming options will drive more players to gamble locally. As a result, the province can experience a significant increase in gambling activities-generated revenue.
How to Enter Toronto’s Online Gambling Market
As mentioned earlier, Toronto’s online gambling scene is part of Ontario’s gambling industry. The market falls under the jurisdiction of the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario and its subsidiary iGaming Ontario. Therefore, any operator seeking to offer gambling services to Toronto players must apply for a licence from these two regulatory bodies.
The process of obtaining an iGO gambling licence involves several steps. iGaming Ontario’s official website outlines them all and gives information on the documents you’ll need to provide. Once the procedure starts, the applicants have to sign a number of forms, subject their systems, data, and games to testing, set up and configure data security and communication channels, and more.
Additionally, candidates have to cover the licence fee and any additional costs. iGO has a non-refundable annual regulatory fee whose size depends on the number of websites an operator runs. In addition, iGO licence applicants might have to pay for extra procedures the official iGaming Ontario regulatory bodies deem necessary.
AGCO and iGO work with each operator on every step of their application process and determine whether they’re fit to join the market. How long the entire process lasts depends on each applicant’s responsiveness and circumstances.
Is online gambling legal in Toronto?
Yes, it is. Toronto is the capital of Ontario, a Canadian province that opened its online gambling market on April 4, 2022.
How can operators apply for an iGaming Ontario licence?
iGaming Ontario’s official website includes a page that details 14 steps each operator interested in joining this market needs to follow. The stages include the delivery of specific documents, testing of games, data, and systems, security protocols configuration, and so on.
Do iGO-licensed Toronto online gambling platforms have to be based in Canada?
They don’t. Operators holding iGO licences don’t need to have businesses established in Canada.
Do iGO-licensed Toronto online gambling sites have to comply with any responsible gambling programs?
Yes. All iGaming Ontario operators have to obtain the Responsible Gambling Council’s RG Check accreditation within two years of signing the Operating agreement with this regulatory body. They also have to remain accredited for the duration of the agreement.