PokerStars Receives AGCO Approval, Prepares To Enter The Ontario White Market

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PokerStars gained approval from Ontario‘s iGaming regulator yesterday.

Thus begins the online poker operator’s journey from the gray market to legal online gambling in Canada.

Yesterday’s acceptance by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) is just the beginning of the process for PokerStars, though. The brand operated by Dublin-based Flutter Entertainment still needs an operating agreement with iGaming Ontario (iGO) before relaunching.

Until that final bit of paperwork is complete, PokerStars can continue to operate in the gray market. However, AGCO is warning operators to complete their transition in a timely manner.

The operator seems to have been taking its time deliberately, even though Ontario expanded its legal iGaming marketplace two months ago, on April 4. The advantage of stalling has been that Ontario players could participate in the PokerStars Spring Championship of Online Poker, or SCOOP, one of the biggest annual online poker events in the world. The series concluded on June 1.

It may be a coincidence, but PokerStars’ dot-com and other international sites have been down for maintenance this afternoon. Its US online poker sites have remained in operation, however.

Ontarians Brace To Lose Access To Global Play

Online Poker Report learned back in January that Ontario poker rooms wouldn’t be able to share traffic with sites in other jurisdictions. Those poker sites that have already launched legally, like BetMGM Poker, are now Ontario-only. Once PokerStars and other remaining gray market sites have either launched legally or withdrawn, Ontarians will have no legal access to the global liquidity pool at all.

The Stars Group plans to offer PokerStars, PokerStars Casino, and PokerStars Sports at on.pokerstarscasino.ca until at least June 7, 2024. That’s the date the AGCO authorization expires.

Several poker sites are already up and running in the regulated Ontario market:

In addition to PokerStars, Ontario poker players are also waiting for the launch of WSOP.ca. In the US, WSOP sites use 888poker technology, but in Ontario, the two will be competitors. Instead, the Ontario WSOP will run on GGPoker’s platform. For now, though, GGPoker is in the same boat as PokerStars. That is, it continues to serve Ontarians in a gray market capacity pending the WSOP launch.

About the Author

Heather Fletcher

Heather Fletcher is the lead writer at Bonus, concentrating on online casino coverage. She had her first published byline at age 10, but didn't get paid for her writing until she got her first newspaper job. Fletcher's newspaper career started at Suburban News Publications in Ohio and eventually took her to The New York Times, where she's still a contract freelance reporter for the National Desk. She covers breaking news from Philadelphia, as needed. In March 2021, Fletcher began writing about online casino gambling as the lead writer for Online Poker Report.

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