Northern Exposure: MCK v iGO Hearings Wrap Up Early, Ad Compliance Deadline Approaching In Ontario

Each week, Canada Sports Betting recaps all the top sports betting and iGaming news in Canada and highlights upcoming events.

Our top stories this week

Event of the week

Hockey Night in Canada – Saturday, Feb. 24

With the NBA just getting back up and running from the All-Star break, the NHL takes centre stage in Canada on Saturday with a schedule featuring several marquee matchups.

The Toronto Maple Leafs will visit the Colorado Avalanche at 7 p.m. ET as they continue their road trip out west. Auston Matthews’ torrid scoring pace has the Leafs grabbing headlines south of the border as he now has 60, or even 70 goals, within his sights after netting his 50th and 51st markers of the campaign on Wednesday against the Arizona Coyotes.

The Vancouver Canucks have cooled off a bit recently with a 5-4-1 record in their last 10 games, and they’ll be in tough when the Boston Bruins visit at 7 p.m. ET.

In the late game, the latest installment of the Battle of Alberta will go down when the Calgary Flames visit the Edmonton Oilers. Sparks always fly when these provincial rivals clash.

Check back with Canada Sports Betting on Friday for Jeff Veillette’s Coast to Coast article that will preview these games and give you a first look at the odds.

MCK v iGO hearings wrap up

The fate of Ontario‘s regulated igaming market is now in the hands of Superior Court Justice Lisa Brownstone.

Two days of hearings have concluded in a Toronto courthouse, with representation for the Mohawk Council of Kahnawà:ke (MCK) and iGaming Ontario pleading their respective cases for the legal definition of “conduct and manage” as it pertains to Section 207 (1) of the Criminal Code of Canada.

Daniel Trujillo from Toronto-based GME Law attended and documented the courtroom proceedings on both Tuesday and Wednesday for those interested in the details of the case. A third day of proceedings was initially scheduled, but Justice Brownstone adjourned the court after the second day of hearings with the promise of a verdict in the coming months.

“It [the hearing] was supposed to be three days, it was just two,” an industry source told CSB. “It might be a good sign that the issue is simplified better than people expected. From what I read, iGO’s lawyers did a very good job. Hopefully, a verdict will be issued quickly. This has been a topic in other [gaming] jurisdictions across Canada. It will be great to have it resolved.”

MCK launched the constitutional challenge in November of 2022 with the aim to abolish Ontario’s new regulated market, which went live in the province in April of 2022. The Council claims that iGO, which was formed in July 2021 as a subsidiary of the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO), is not “conducting or managing” the online gambling sites of private operators, and allowing operators to “conduct and manage themselves,” subject to the payment of a portion of their revenues (roughly 20%) to the Ontario government. MCK also claims that the new igaming regime “ignores their expertise in the gaming sector, and will result in the loss of significant revenue to the community of Kahnawà:ke.”

Regardless of the decision, this will be a benchmark case in Canadian igaming. As previously stated, there’s no concrete timeline for a verdict at this time.

Ad clock ticking in Ontario

Some major changes to how private igaming operators in Ontario can promote and market their products will take effect in a week.

Effective Feb. 28, 2024, igaming operators will no longer be able to use current or former athletes, celebrities, social media influencers, and/or entertainers “who would likely be expected to appeal to minors” in their advertising, unless that advertising pertains to responsible gambling messaging, as per guideline changes to the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario’s Standards for Internet Gaming.

On Feb. 8, the AGCO released an additional guidance document to help “ensure successful implementation of the new requirements.”

The Canadian Gaming Association, the national trade association that represents leading operators and suppliers in Canada’s gaming, sports betting, eSports, and lottery industries, told its members on Thursday that plans are moving forward for the creation of a working group between private operators and industry regulators on advertising.

“All parties recognize there needs to be ongoing work in regards to advertising standards,” CGA President Paul Burns said Thursday. “We’re not sure how that’s going to evolve, but it’s a good sign from the AGCO that they’re willing to continue to work together on our mutual interests.”

Many operators, including BetMGM, aired ads in Ontario featuring celebrities, athletes, and influencers ahead of and during the Super Bowl earlier this month. Wayne Gretzky shouldn’t be featured in any future BetMGM ads airing in Ontario unless he’s delivering a responsible gambling message.

It should be noted that operator advertisements featuring celebrities, athletes, and influencers can continue to air in other Canadian jurisdictions outside of Ontario beyond Feb. 28.

CGA consulting Alberta stakeholders

Earlier this month, Dale Nally, the Minister of Service Alberta and Red Tape Reduction, attended the ICE igaming conference in London, England, leading to speculation that the ball is indeed rolling towards a regulated igaming market in the province of Alberta.

Nally revealed via social media he “engaged in insightful discussions” in regards to igaming with Ontario Attorney General Doug Downey and other Canadian industry stakeholders while attending the conference.

On Thursday, the CGA confirmed in a town hall meeting that it has been engaging with the Alberta Government and Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis about the possibility of the jurisdiction enhancing its igaming market.

“Everyone is going to have the obvious questions: When, what, where, and how? We don’t know,” said Burns. “I think we will see in the coming weeks a signal from them about what their intentions are and how they will proceed.”

Burns added that Nally and his office are “now fully engaged” in the exploration process of expanding the province’s igaming market beyond the provincial lottery corporation’s offerings.

Another industry source recently told CSB that “Alberta is going to happen.” But he also couldn’t give a concrete timeline for a prospective launch of a regulated igaming market, similar to the one deployed in Ontario.

The Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis Commission announced in December 2021 that it was planning to allow two private operators to run sports betting, with possible mobile extensions, at major professional sports venues across the province — but the process fell apart when the government agency put out its request for proposals.

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith and her government are scheduled to present their latest budget on Feb. 29.

Smith released a budget preview on Wednesday, but there was no mention of online gambling reforms.