Inbound budget sees Ontario pull the trigger on its igaming framework  

The government of Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, is set to move ahead and establish the foundations for a liberalised igaming market – a move that will likely have significant consequences for how Canada chooses to regulated sports betting.

Publishing its provincial budget, Ontario’s legislative assembly will reveal its conditions for launching a regulated igaming marketplace – a subject that has risen in prominence following the COVID-19 pandemic draining the province’s funds.

Winning a shock election victory in 2018, Premier Doug Ford – who carries the moniker of ‘Canada’s Donald Trump’ -pledged that Ontario would copy New Jersey by becoming the first province to ‘establish a competitive market for legal gambling’.

Ford and Ontario’s Progressive Conservatives (Ontario Tories) stated that the limited offering of the province operated  by Ontario Lottery & Gaming Corp (OLG) would no longer be able to match the changing North American sports betting landscape following the US Supreme Courts federal repeal of PASPA laws.

In 2019, the province’s Treasury Board estimated that around C$500 million had been spent by Ontario residents wagering on unlicensed websites, a figure Ford and the Ontario Tories believed would be compounded by the US liberalisation.

Speaking to Bloomberg this week, Canadian Gaming Association (CGA) Chief Executive Paul Burns credited Ontario for taking the lead in bringing ‘igaming out of the shadows’.

Burns highlighted Ontario’s appeal to foreign operators, adding that igaming could becoming a further ‘economic driver’ for the province as part of its recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ontario’s assembly underlined that it would not provide any financial projections for the planned igaming framework, instead choosing to focus on developing a timetable for its proceeding legislation and market licensing arrangements.

Frustrated by Canada’s slumber to reform its gambling laws and develop a ‘single sports betting’ federal framework, all Canadian provinces will be monitoring how Ontario establishes Canada’s first open igaming marketplace.

At a federal level, meanwhile, the CGA has stated that it has made significant progress in moving single sports betting up the political agenda since Canada’s 2019 election, securing cross-party support for the CGA latest attempt to legalise sports betting within the Great North.

This summer, the leadership of the NBA, NHL, MLB, MLS Soccer and Canadian Football League wrote to the government emphasising that Canada needed to drastically update its sports betting laws to protect franchises and national consumers.

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