Ontario Regulators To Issue RFP For Centralized Self-Exclusion Online Gambling Program

There’s finally momentum towards establishing a centralized self-exclusion online gambling program in Ontario.

On Monday afternoon, iGaming Ontario, which is responsible for conducting and managing iGaming when provided through private operators in the province, announced it intends to issue a request for proposals in early 2024 for a centralized self-exclusion solution that will enable a player to self-exclude from all Ontario regulated igaming operators in a single registration process.

The press release indicates that the successful bidder “will be expected to develop and implement a centralized self-exclusion system that integrates with all operator systems and supports players’ self-exclusion registration, renewal, and reinstatement.” This program will also include Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation’s igaming site olg.ca and PROLINE.

iGaming Ontario has pointed out three essential components of the new program:

  • Allowing players to create and manage their self-exclusion profile and including Know Your Client (KYC) identity verification.
  • Providing players with easy access to self-exclusion at any time including while they are gambling on any regulated igaming website.
  • Having registration, renewal, and reinstatement processes that are intuitive, simple and offer supporting information.

A Notice of Proposed Procurement has been posted on the MERX website, with a closing date of March 6, 2024. A bid intent deadline of Jan. 31, 2024 is also visible on the site.

How self-exclusion currently works in Ontario

All private igaming operators in Ontario must abide by the guidelines and principles set out by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario. Sections 2.13 and 2.14 outline the guidelines for self-exclusion and breaks in play. Operators must give users the option to take a break in play, in addition to a formal self-exclusion program. Operators also must provide a voluntary self-exclusion program for their site.

There’s also an exclaimer in the guidelines that states: Once directed by the Registrar, operators will be required to participate in a coordinated, centralized self-exclusion program, that shall be in place to allow players to automatically exclude themselves from all online operator platforms, including OLG.

So, as it currently stands, online gamblers can self-exclude from a particular website, but there’s nothing stopping them from signing up and playing on another regulated site in the province. Under the new program, online gamblers would be excluded from all of the regulated websites (over 45 now) being offered in Ontario.

OLG currently has a separate program, My PlayBreak, which is a voluntary self-help tool that enables gamblers to make a commitment to take a break from participating in gaming activities offered by OLG for a defined period of time. Once enrolled in the completely confidential program, gamblers are required to stop visiting Ontario casinos, Charitable Bingo and Gaming centres, and/or OLG.ca. They’re also removed from all marketing lists and their photo is included in OLG’s facial recognition database. Should the gambler be detected at a gaming site, they’ll be escorted off the premises.

A long time coming

Back at June’s Canadian Gaming Summit in Toronto, industry regulators stated that establishing a centralized self-exclusion program was one of their top priorities in the next year.

Back in the early days of Ontario’s regulated igaming market in 2022, some gamblers exploited a loophole by self-excluding from online sportsbooks to avoid losing bets. They were then betting the other side of an event with another operator, giving them the opportunity to collect both a refund and a potential winning wager.

The AGCO amended its policies to close the loophole last February by requiring operators to only refund a bet if a user enrolls in a self-exclusion program before the start of the wagered-upon event.

The creation of the centralized self-exclusion program will certainly be welcomed by local mental health organizations and responsible gambling advocates. Canada Sports Betting reached out to the Responsible Gambling Council, which is based in Toronto, for comment, but had not heard back at the time of publish. However, RGC CEO Shelley White told CSB during a previous conversation that the development of a centralized self-exclusion program was essential to the success of the long-term success of the regulated igaming market in the province and player health.

The AGCO is also enhancing its advertising standards with player protection in mind, prohibiting the use of celebrities and athletes in operator advertisements, unless they’re used to deliver a responsible gambling message, to promote products. Those new measures will come into effect at the end of February.

A bill has also been tabled at the federal level with the aim to establish a national framework on advertising for sports betting in Canada. Bill S-269 is currently in its second reading at the Senate.