During the week after its do-or-die deadline for unregulated online gambling operators to join the legal iGaming marketplace in Ontario or face penalties, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) says 17 such operators “have exited.” Meanwhile, 28 of the 36 operators in the legal market used to be in the gray market, AGCO tells Bonus.
Responding to questions from Bonus about the new standards that set a Halloween deadline for iGaming operators to comply, AGCO sent responses about its enforcement actions.
On Nov. 9, the AGCO Communications Team told Bonus:
As of November 7, 2022, the AGCO can also confirm that a total of 17 additional operators have exited Ontario’s unregulated market over the past few days in direct response to Standard 1.22. These operators are comprised of igaming companies that are still working through AGCO and iGaming Ontario requirements to enter Ontario’s regulated market.
AGCO is Ontario’s iGaming regulator, while iGaming Ontario (iGO) is the entity with which operators must acquire an operating agreement.
28 Legal Sites Were Once Gray Market Operators
Ontario launched its expanded legal iGaming marketplace on April 4. Until that date, the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) held a monopoly.
However, unregulated sites stayed in the marketplace until Halloween.
That’s because, unlike US online casino operators who need to comply with the law in order to participate in a legal state online gambling marketplace, Ontario regulators gave gray market operators a grace period.
As AGCO tells Bonus:
A key objective of the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) has been to move igaming operators and suppliers into Ontario’s regulated market as quickly and as seamlessly as possible.
The AGCO established a process for existing operators and suppliers in the unregulated market to move into the regulated market without causing significant interruption to their Ontario customer base.
With the application process for registration opening in September 2021 and the market going live in April 2022, operators and gaming-related suppliers have had a reasonable amount of time to join Ontario’s regulated market in a seamless fashion.
Since this standard was announced on October 3, 2022, teams across the AGCO have worked together with registrants and applicants who have remained in the unregulated market to ensure they understand their regulatory obligations.
With the Standard now in effect, we can confirm that a total of 28 of the 36 operators currently live in Ontario’s regulated igaming market were previously active in the province’s unregulated market. Each of these operators have fully exited the unregulated market as a condition of entry.
Oct. 31 Deadline for Unregulated Online Gambling Operators
Legal operators were getting annoyed that Ontario was seemingly allowing illegal sites to continue taking bets.
On July 13 at SBC Summit North America 2022, PointsBet Canada CEO Scott Vanderwel told conference attendees that he viewed the marketplace as filled with legal or illegal operators only. He saw no gray area.
On Oct. 3, AGCO announced “new standards” that did penalize unrepentant unregulated online gambling operators.
This new standard establishes that operators and gaming-related suppliers that are currently active in the unregulated market in Ontario (or have agreements and arrangements with those in the unregulated market in Ontario) must end their activities in the unregulated market to avoid jeopardizing their eligibility for registration. This requirement extends to applicants for registration in Ontario’s igaming scheme.
If online gambling suppliers continue to do business with the penalized unregulated online gambling operators, AGCO says it will notice.
AGCO tells Bonus on Nov. 9:
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. We note that significant progress has been achieved by registered suppliers in removing their games and other technology from unregulated sites to-date.
This Isn’t the End of Vigilance, Says AGCO
AGCO tells Bonus it will be vigilant about enforcing iGaming regulations:
The AGCO will continue to carefully monitor for compliance with this new Standard. As always, the AGCO will take appropriate regulatory action when dealing with non-compliance, including enforcement measures where appropriate.
The AGCO will also continue working with government, law enforcement, and international regulators to address residual unregulated market activity in Ontario.
Bonus checked on a site that may be part of this enforcement action. It remains offline in Ontario today, as it has been since at least Nov. 8.
However, AGCO didn’t name names regarding which unregulated online gambling operators it penalized. That seems to be in keeping with AGCO’s mission “to move igaming operators and suppliers into Ontario’s regulated market as quickly and as seamlessly as possible.”