Northern Exposure: An Attempt To Resurrect DFS, Online Poker 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

NCAA Selection Sunday – March 17

This year’s 2024 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament 68-team bracket will be revealed on Sunday evening, setting the stage for March Madness the following week.

The First Four matchups will officially kick off the tournament on March 19-20 and then the fun really begins with the first round beginning on March 21.

Major conference tournaments are underway south of the border as teams make a final push to solidify their spots in this tournament.

Here’s a look at the 10 teams with the shortest odds to win March Madness, courtesy of bet365:

TeamOutright odds
Purdue +750
North Carolina+1600

Could DFS be revived in Ontario?

There could potentially be some great news for daily fantasy sports and online poker players in Ontario by the end of this year.

The Ontario government announced Monday that it had filed a reference with the Court of Appeal for Ontario to further investigate the legality of allowing Ontario players to participate in online games and betting with other players outside of the jurisdiction, as described in the Criminal Code (Section 207(1)(a)).

The following question will be posed to the court, as referenced by the Order in Council:

Would legal online gaming and sports betting remain lawful under the Criminal Code if its users were permitted to participate in games and betting involving individuals outside of Canada as described in the attached Schedule? If not, to what extent?

The reference will be heard by the court on Nov. 26-28 in Toronto.

Ontario’s regulated igaming market essentially killed local DFS and online poker in April 2022 due to new restrictions surrounding liquidity. Popular DFS operators like FanDuel and DraftKings elected to halt their DFS operations in Ontario as a result.

“The real deal-breaker, at least for the short term, is that Ontario is not going to have shared liquidity with any other jurisdictions, so it has to be completely ring-fenced within Ontario,” A FanDuel spokesperson told USBets in 2022. “And so that’s really sort of commercially not viable for fantasy contests.”

Technically, DFS operators still had the option to create a new platform strictly for its Ontario DFS users, but it would negatively affect the user experience due to the small market size and smaller prize pools. Ultimately, it didn’t make financial sense for the operators.

The Fantasy Sports & Gaming Association, the only national organization representing the interests of 60 million fantasy sports players in the United States and Canada, asked Ontario DFS players to sign an online petition in Sept. 2022 in an attempt to get the attention of lawmakers. Clearly, it at least helped get the conversation started amongst industry stakeholders.

Online poker could also benefit from larger pools across multiple jurisdictions. Peer-to-peer (P2P) poker accounted for $431 million (2.5%) of total wagers in Ontario and $17 million (2.5%) of gaming revenue during Q3 (Oct. 1, 2023-Dec. 31, 2024). Those metrics could flourish with larger potential player pools involving bettors from other countries.

NHL microbetting markets rolling out across Canada

Hockey bettors in Canada may be interested to learn that some comprehensive micro betting markets are now debuting on Caesars betting platforms via its partner Simplebet, a technology, data, and innovation company driving the future of fan engagement around live sporting events.

Ontario bettors using Caesars’ online betting platforms now have access to the following in-play markets:

  • Next Goal Exact
  • Next Goal Strength
  • Next Power Play Result
  • Team Next Power Play Result
  • Next Faceoff Winner
  • Next Faceoff Winning Team
  • Next Goal Strength
  • Team Next Goal Strength
  • Next Shot on Goal Team

A Simplebet spokesperson told Canada Sports Betting that these markets will also be going live on its other partnered sportsbooks such as Bet99 and theScore Bet over the next few weeks. Bettors outside of Ontario will also be able to access these markets via Bet99, while theScore Bet currently only serves customers in Ontario.

“The launch of our NHL product marks another massive accomplishment for the entire Simplebet team,” said Simplebet CEO Chris Bevilacqua in a press release. “We have always believed there was untapped potential when it came to in-play betting in such a popular, global league like the NHL, and the nine brand new in-play markets we are delivering this year will prove that. As we have seen with other sports, our micro-markets are driving incremental engagement and consumption of live sporting events. We look forward to creating a new way for fans to interact with the NHL for the remainder of this season.”

Hockey bettors should also tune into The Puck Portfolio podcast with Andy MacNeil daily via Canada Sports Betting’s YouTube channel for their daily NHL handicapping needs.

No igaming revisions in the Quebec budget

Earlier this week, the Quebec provincial government released its 2024-25 budget, and there was no mention of potentially expanding its igaming market outside of the services currently offered by its provincial lottery, Loto-Quebec.

According to the budget, Loto-Quebec is projected to generate roughly $1.507 billion in revenue in 2023-24, $1.514 billion in 2024-25, and $1.529 billion in 2025-26. Those are very modest projected year-over-year increases for a government that tabled a budget with a projected $11-billion deficit for the next fiscal year.

In May of last year, a group of eight private online gaming operators and suppliers merged to form the Quebec Online Gaming Coalition (QOGC). The coalition — which consists of Betway, Bet99, DraftKings, Entain (BetMGM), Flutter (FanDuel and PokerStars), Rush Street Interactive (BetRivers), Apricot Investments, and Games Global — has been advocating for the development of a new regulatory licensing regime for online gaming in Quebec, much like the system now in place in Ontario.

The coalition released the following statement to Canada Sports Betting via spokesperson Nathalie Bergeron in response to the new budget on Thursday:

As the Minister of Finance tables a budget marked by a record $11 billion deficit, the Coalition québécoise du jeu en ligne deplores the fact that the Quebec government has decided to deprive itself of substantial tax revenues by refusing to regulate the online gaming market on its territory.

Since its launch, the Coalition has been offering a concrete solution to help the Quebec government counter the effects of the budget deficit. Regulating the market for private online gaming operators would enable the Quebec government to obtain additional royalties estimated at a minimum of $230 million annually. This sum would be in addition to the revenues already provided by the Crown Corporation. These revenues could be reinvested in key sectors of the Quebec economy, such as health and education, to the benefit of all Quebecers.

In addition to royalties, regulation would create many well-paid jobs here in Quebec, while generating significant public revenues, as is currently the case in Ontario. The Ontario model has contributed $523 million in revenues to provincial and municipal governments, and nearly $1.6 billion to Ontario’s GDP during its first year of operation.

At a time when the government is asking Crown Corporations, including Loto-Québec, to optimize and increase efficiency in order to find savings, Quebec cannot afford to deprive itself of significant sources of new revenue. The Minister must review Loto-Québec’s mandate and set up an independent regulatory body to ensure that gaming in Quebec is properly supervised. After all, the Crown Corporation’s mission is to offer both safe gaming to Quebecers and contribute to public revenues. Our recommendation meets both these objectives.

Recommendations in favour of a licensing and tax system for private operators and the creation of an independent regulatory body have been issued since 2014, notably by the Task Force on Online Gaming. Since then, Dr. Sylvia Kairouz, Research Chair in the Study of Gambling at Concordia University, the Institut national de santé publique du Québec (INSPQ) and the Direction régionale de santé publique de Montréal have all recommended the creation of a body to oversee all gaming in Quebec, including Loto-Québec.

The Minister missed an opportunity to send a clear signal in his budget, following Alberta’s example last week, to take action towards implementing regulations that would protect Quebecers while boosting government revenues. Instead of listening to the experts, who have been calling for regulation of the online gaming market for over 10 years, Quebec prefers to protect Loto-Québec’s monopoly, to the detriment of public services and the Quebec society that receives them.

The Quebec government has been heavily opposed to including private operators in its online gambling marketplace despite the coalition recently releasing a study that found nearly two-thirds of Quebeckers are in favour of a regulated igaming model.

Ontario is the only province to adopt an open igaming model to this point, but the Alberta government has committed to exploring a potential igaming expansion in its latest provincial budget released a couple of weeks ago.

FINTRAC hacked

The Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC), Canada’s financial intelligence unit and anti-money laundering and anti-terrorist financing supervisor, has confirmed a “cyber incident” that was first identified on March 2.

FINTRAC issued the following statement on Monday:

FINTRAC continues to work closely with its federal partners, including the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security (Cyber Centre), to investigate and manage a cyber incident first identified on March 2, 2024.

The incident does not involve the Centre’s intelligence or classified systems. As a precautionary measure, FINTRAC’s corporate systems remain offline to ensure their integrity and protect the information that FINTRAC maintains.

FINTRAC has notified its partners and businesses of this cyber incident and provided businesses with guidance in relation to reporting to FINTRAC.

FINTRAC will continue to provide updates on its website as they become available.

Derek Ramm, an expert in the anti-money laundering and gaming fields, took to LinkedIn to caution Ontario’s igaming operators about the implications of the cyber-attack.

“This means that iGaming operators in Ontario are unable to prepare and file required AML reports,” he wrote. “Each day the system is down, the industry falls behind by hundreds of reports that will need to be submitted quickly when the system is restored.”

Operators must file AML reports with FINTRAC, as outlined in the Alcohol and Gaming Commission Registrar’s Standards for Internet Gaming.

In January, FINTRAC issued a special advisory on laundering the proceeds of crime through online gambling websites. The advisory specifically pointed out money laundering indicators for licensed Canadian online gambling sites and included a list of several tactics criminals may seek to exploit.

PROLINE + bettors still waiting for Super Bowl payouts

Some bettors who placed wagers on the Super Bowl with Ontario Lottery Gaming Corporation’s PROLINE + online sportsbook are still waiting for their payouts, as first reported by CTV News Toronto.

Super Bowl LVIII was played on Feb. 11 and a significant number of new bettors are still having issues withdrawing their winnings over a month later due to KYC (know your customer) issues.

CSB reached out to the OLG regarding the matter and received the following statement from a spokesperson:

OLG is pleased with customer response to our PROLINE+ Super Bowl offerings and promotions during this year’s championship game.

There was indeed a significant influx of new players on leading up to the Super Bowl. As a result, OLG is facing a higher-than-usual number of bank account verification requests and we are working through the backlog.

OLG has a responsibility to ensure that the ownership of all bank accounts added to are verified. Our verification process is aligned with the Standards for Internet Gaming set out by our regulator, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO).

Registering your bank account information on for withdrawals is a one-time process, provided you do not change bank accounts. This will take longer during periods of high demand during events like the Super Bowl.

Delays in the verification process can be exacerbated if additional documents or information are required, which is often the case.

We appreciate the patience and understanding of our customers while we work diligently to review and subsequently verify bank accounts as quickly as possible, according to the iGaming standards in this province.

OLG prides itself on paying its winners and also carefully complying with regulatory standards.

OLG declined to provide any specifics on the number of customers impacted by the backlog.

Prior to the launch of Ontario’s regulated igaming market in April 2022, OLG’s PROLINE (retail) and PROLINE + (online) sports betting offerings were the only legal option in the province. OLG’s PROLINE games have been available to Ontarians for decades and the provincial lottery corporation has been working hard to improve its sports betting products in order to remain competitive in the new marketplace.

OLG and PROLINE hosted a Super Bowl party this year at Real Sports in downtown Toronto.