Northern Exposure: Ontario’s Crackdown On Illegal Operators, Retail Sports Betting Launch

Each week, Canada Sports Betting recaps all the top sports betting and iGaming news in Canada, highlights the event of the week, and takes a look ahead at some of the most intriguing games to bet on over the weekend.

Our top sports stories this week

Game of the week

World Series Game 6 – MLB: Philadelphia Phillies @ Houston Astros

The Houston Astros are now one win away from winning the World Series after grinding out a 3-2 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies in Game 5 on Thursday night to take a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series.

The scene now shifts back to Houston for Game 6 of the Fall Classic on Saturday night. Houston will send lefty Framber Valdez to the mound to square off with Philadelphia right-hander Zack Wheeler.

Houston is a -155 favorite at BetRivers in the potential World Series-clinching game, while Philadelphia is a +128 underdog. The total is set at seven runs and the under has cashed in the last three contests of the series.

As far as series prices go, the Astros are now hearty -560 to win the Fall Classic, while the Phillies are huge +450 underdogs to come back and steal the series.

Game 7 is scheduled for Sunday night, if necessary.

Crackdown on black market operations begins

The transition period for unregulated operators and suppliers in Ontario is officially over.

As of Oct. 31, Standard 1.22 in the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario’s Standards for Internet Gaming came into effect:

Operators and gaming-related suppliers must cease all unregulated activities if, to carry out those same activities in iGaming Ontario’s regulated online lottery scheme, it would require registration under the GCA (Gaming Control Act).

Operators and gaming-related suppliers shall not enter into any agreements or arrangements with any unregistered person who is providing the operator or gaming-related supplier with any goods or services if, to provide those goods and services in iGaming Ontario’s regulated online lottery scheme, it would require registration under the GCA.

Regulators in the province have been accepting applications since Sept. 2021, and the AGCO says operators and suppliers have had an adequate amount of time to move into the regulated market without causing significant interruption to their Ontario customer base.

Applicants that are non-compliant with the new standard as of Oct. 31 now “risk having their application for registration refused,” and the AGCO will “take appropriate regulatory action against any registrant that does not meet this Standard.”

In an email to Canada Sports Betting on Wednesday, the AGCO confirmed that a total of 28 of the 36 operators live in Ontario’s regulated market were previously active in the province’s unregulated market. Regulators also confirmed that a total of 17 additional operators have exited Ontario’s unregulated market over the past few days in direct response to the implementation of Standard 1.22.

BetRegal, the official sports betting partner of the Canadian Football League, is one of the operators that at least temporarily shuttered their operations in Ontario as a result of the new Standard.

The AGCO is also following up with registered suppliers to ensure they’re meeting the requirement to end all commercial relationships with unregulated sites in Ontario.

In addition to these activities, the AGCO continues to engage registered suppliers to ensure they are meeting their obligation to end all commercial relationships with respect to residual unregulated sites in Ontario.

According to a source, any illegal online gaming site operating in Ontario after Oct. 31 is now breaking Canadian law and may be hearing from the Investigation and Enforcement Bureau (IEB), which is composed of Ontario Provincial Police officers and is fully integrated as a bureau within the AGCO.

A handful of new operators went live in Ontario just prior to the transition deadline. The full list of available online gambling sites can be found on the iGaming Ontario website.

Retail sports betting a reality

Ontarians had the chance to place their first retail sports wagers in the province this past weekend.

Great Canadian Entertainment soft-launched its retail sports betting products at 10 casino locations across Ontario on Friday evening.

Four of GCE’s locations (Great Blue Heron Casino & Hotel, Pickering Casino Resort, Elements Casino Brantford, and Shorelines Casino Belleville) now have dedicated sportsbook lounges, while six others (Casino Woodbine, Shorelines Casino Peterborough, Shorelines Casino Thousand Islands, Elements Casino Mohawk, Elements Casino Grand River, and Elements Casino Flamboro) now have sports betting kiosks in existing gaming areas.

CGE enlisted the services of Kambi Group to help provide its sportsbook solutions and betting kiosks at its casinos.

On Thursday, Caesars Windsor also launched 10 sports betting kiosks.

“We’re thrilled to offer sports bettors a chance to get in on the action with all their favourite sports and enjoy the thrill of single event betting as part of our resort experience at Caesars,” said President of Caesars Windsor, Kevin Laforet, in an email release. “These sports betting kiosks are Phase 1 of what we will be offering at Caesars Windsor, with a full-service Caesars Sportsbook opening soon with dining, bar service, and sports betting all in one exciting location. Construction is underway on our sportsbook and we look forward to opening Ontario’s first full-service retail sportsbook early next year.”

In Ontario, there are five major casino providers: Gateway Casinos, Fallsview Casino Resort, Caesars Windsor, Hard Rock Ottawa, and GCE. The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation owns and manages casinos in Ontario, but many private operators, such as GCE, manage the day-to-day operations of the venues.

Fallsview Casino Resort is expected to launch retail sports betting shortly and has been hiring for various sportsbook roles over the past couple of months. Gateway Casinos and Hard Rock Ottawa did not respond to inquiries regarding potential retail sports betting at their respective locations.

Rideau Carleton Raceway in the Ottawa area is the future home of Hard Rock Ottawa. Launching retail sports betting at the location is not imminent, according to a source.

Illegal play detected on

A Richmond Hill, Ontario, online gambler has been charged with two counts of Cheat at Play (section 209 of the Criminal Code of Canada) by the Ontario Provincial Police, according to a press release on the AGCO website.

The alleged illegal player activity occurred on the platform during two live Blackjack games in May. The suspicious activity was flagged by Evolution Gaming, one of OLG’s gaming suppliers.

Ontario’s regulators, the AGCO and iGO, have measures in place to ensure the integrity and fairness of regulated gaming sites in the province. Any violations of the Gaming Control Act are followed up on by the OPP’s Investigation and Enforcement Bureau.

The release didn’t include any details on further legal proceedings.

OLG releases new impact report

Speaking of the OLG, the Crown corporation released a new impact report titled: Where Play Meets Purpose.

The report is an evolution of OLG’s previous corporate social responsibility reports that unpacks the meaningful initiatives over the past three years that focus on the corporation’s leadership as a provider of safe and responsible gambling entertainment.

A couple of highlights from the 24-page document:

  • PlaySmart Centres at casinos and Charitable Gaming Centres have received over 250,000 visitors since April 2019 and hosts over two million users every year.
  • OLG tested a new direct communications approach with high-risk digital casino players by sending them messages encouraging them to set casino loss limits. The results were remarkable: players who received a message were almost 2 1/2 times more likely to set casino limits within 28 days. They also viewed their play history page, set lottery purchase limits, and enrolled in play breaks more frequently.

The report also includes several financial figures on OLG’s reinvestment back into Ontario’s communities and various sectors. OLG’s annual financial report should be coming out relatively soon after getting the seal of approval from the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

OLG’s responsible gaming metrics were released just days before a major responsible gambling conference is scheduled to be held in Toronto by the Responsible Gambling Council.

NorthStar Bets partners with NBA

NorthStar Gaming is now an authorized gaming operator of the NBA in Ontario, the operator announced on Wednesday.

That means NorthStar Bets users will now receive enhanced NBA data and betting insights and an “authentic NBA experience” on the platform, according to CEO Michael Moskowitz.

NorthStar Bets and theScore Bet are both Ontario-based operators and they rely heavily on their sports betting insights and news to support their sportsbook applications.

NHL insider Chris Johnston was hired by NorthStar Bets to lead its content-driven approach last September.

NorthStar Bets is owned by NordStar Capital, which also owns Torstar, the Toronto Star‘s parent company.

CGA launches new forum

The Canadian Gaming Association, a national trade association that represents leading operators and suppliers in Canada’s gaming, sports betting, eSports, and lottery industries, announced in an email on Wednesday that it’s launching the Canadian Gaming Leaders Forum, a unique members-only event held in conjunction with the CGA’s Annual General Meeting from Dec. 6-7 in Vancouver, British Columbia.

The inaugural event will focus on the local industry and will give members insights into the “thriving gaming market” in British Columbia.

The province offers legal sports betting through the BC Lottery Corporation’s PlayNow platform and it has not yet indicated any interest in adopting an open iGaming model involving private operators, like Ontario.

Both events will be held at the Grand Villa Casino Hotel and Conference Centre in Burnaby.

PENN Entertainment earnings

Penn Entertainment, which bought Score Media Gaming (theScore) for $2 billion (USD) in August 2021, released its Q3 earnings report on Thursday.

The operator stated that Ontario is now one of its top performing jurisdictions for sports betting and iCasino through theScore Bet, which will be introducing live in-game/same-game parlays on its platforms this month.

PENN also plans to migrate the Barstool Sportsbook to its proprietary tech platform by the middle of 2023.

PENN published revenues of $1.6 billion (USD), a 7.5% increase year-over-year, while net income was reported at $123.2 million with a margin of 7.6%.

Upon launching in Ontario’s regulated market on April 4, theScore Bet announced a 10-year partnership with the Toronto Blue Jays to become Canada’s only MLB team’s exclusive sports betting and gaming partner.

Online sports betting launches in Saskatchewan

Thursday was a monumental day for online gaming in the province of Saskatchewan.

PlayNow launched in the province, giving residents 19 years of age the first legal, and regulated, online gaming platform in the province.

The Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority, the official operator of in Saskatchewan as per an operating agreement with SaskGaming, announced BCLC as its winning vendor in June.

On Sept. 23, 2021, the Saskatchewan government and the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) announced an amendment to the Gaming Framework Agreement, which was originally signed in 1995, to establish the legal grounds for the digital gaming enterprise to be run by SIGA. The two sides negotiated an unprecedented 50/50 revenue split.

SIGA, established as a nonprofit organization in 1995, operates seven First Nations-owned casinos in Saskatchewan. There are plans to also eventually open a brick-and-mortar sportsbook on one of its properties.

In addition to competition SIGA faces from grey market operators, local sports bettors are also wagering at select retail locations in Saskatchewan using the Sport Select platform, which is regulated by the Western Canadian Lottery Corporation.

Kaizen Gaming wins global industry awards

Kaizen Gaming, which operates the new Betano brand in Ontario, has won the Operator of the Year award at the 2022 EGR Operator Awards.

In addition to Operator of the Year, Kaizen Gaming also won Sports Betting Operator of the year for its Betano and Stoixman brands.

Betano launched in Ontario on Oct. 19 and is internationally known for its strong soccer offerings and comprehensive iCasino platform.

The operator hired veteran iGaming executive Kris Abbott, formerly of Coolbet Canada, as its country manager for Canadian operations in September. He sees the upcoming FIFA World Cup as a major customer acquisition opportunity.

“Kaizen Gaming has dominated the soccer space in the markets where they operate,” Abbott previously told Sports Handle. “For the World Cup, and other major soccer leagues, there will be roughly 500 betting markets per match available. The idea is to certainly leverage soccer in our entrance strategy to Ontario. The sportsbook is very deep, very broad, with a specialty in soccer. They’re a kit partner with four teams in the Champions League this year and a couple more in the Europa League. In Europe, it’s a well-known brand, especially around the soccer space.”

Canada boasts three Major League Soccer franchises — Toronto FC, CF Montreal, and the Vancouver Whitecaps — and is home to one of the most exciting young players in the world, Alphonso Davies, who plays for Bundesliga club Bayern Munich when he’s not suiting up for the men’s national team.

The Canadian men qualified for the World Cup for the first time since 1986 and will be participating in this fall’s event in Qatar as part of Group F with Croatia, Belgium, and Morocco.