If you’re an Ontarian who gambled online in the past few years, you’ve likely heard a lot about iGaming Ontario and seen its logo floating around on your preferred online gambling platform.
The organization has become the driving force in Ontario’s internet gaming marketplace, but has it been as successful as hoped?
In this article, we’ll look at what iGaming Ontario is and why it was started. Then, we’ll examine some of the outcomes it has brought about since it began. Let’s get started with the what and the why.
What is iGaming Ontario?
iGaming Ontario (iGO) is an online gaming marketplace that’s a part of the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO). The marketplace allows private gaming operators to work on behalf of the province of Ontario. This offers Ontario online blackjack games, sports betting, and many other casino game options in a regulated capacity.
The iGO organization is the first marketplace of its kind in Canada and was only established in July 2021. It was developed in response to the growing online gaming industry and its need for more regulation and management.
The iGO Purpose & Mission
Online gambling has been around for well over twenty years now, including for Ontario residents. But, unlike today, these online options weren’t regulated, taxed, or secured. Leading up to the creation of iGaming Ontario, the online gaming industry was considered a “grey market” of options offered by operators outside the province and even outside of Canada.
Since the organization developed as a response to online gambling, what was it hoping to achieve? It had a few key objectives, including creating a secure and regulated market of online gaming options, decreasing underage gambling, and bringing in revenue for the province of Ontario.
Regulating and Managing Gaming Options
Before iGO, there were no baseline regulations in place to protect players — be it protecting their personal information or financial or mental health. For this reason, there were calls for a regulated market for years before iGaming Ontario started gearing up to launch. People wanted something that protected players, and iGO is an organization with that purpose as one of its driving forces.
Decreasing Underage Gambling
The lack of regulation over the past two decades has meant that activities like underage gambling were more likely to happen since there were no safeguards in place to prevent it.
Increasing the Province’s Revenue
Before opening iGO’s marketplace, it was estimated that Ontarians were spending almost $1 billion annually, but because they were using platforms out of province, no money was going back into the provincial economy. Now, just like the LCBO and the OLG, iGaming Ontario brings in revenue to the province to support healthcare, education, and other provincial programs and services.
How is iGO Performing?
Now that we’ve covered what iGaming Ontario focuses on, it’s easier to assess whether it’s succeeded in its first few years of existence. Unsurprisingly, there have been a few stand-out successes and wins, but alongside them, voices of concern have become a little louder.
Successes & Wins
Through iGO’s marketplace, the province has seen substantial numbers, including $540 million in revenue, 71 gaming websites, and over 943,000 active player accounts. This was all reported after just the second quarter of this fiscal year.
In terms of creating a marketplace of secure options and revenue for the province, that’s pretty impressive — although, let’s not forget that not all that money will go to the Ontario government.
Because iGO is the first of its kind, it has become a benchmark and example for other provinces and even global markets looking to create a financially rewarding marketplace within the online gaming industry. This, in and of itself, is a win for iGO.
Worries & Concerns
While iGO has been a considerable success in numbers, in terms of social impacts, it has brought forth many different worries and concerns, most related to the well-being of gamers.
The biggest concern is related to problem gambling, which many experts feel will become more prominent because iGO has made gambling more available to more people. In addition to this, several cases have been reported of iGO operators failing to meet the standards for responsible gambling. This certainly shakes the faith of people who felt they were getting safe and regulated options through iGO.
Another cause of concern is advertising policies and regulations for gaming. People have reported feeling inundated with ads for these new websites, and there’s been a call to readdress the industry’s ad regulations.
The step to address ads for internet gaming has already started with the debate about whether or not famous athletes should be allowed to participate in promotions or ads for sports betting. This debate led to the decision that, as of February 2024, athletes will no longer be in any ads or promotions related to gaming.
There have also been concerns raised by in-person casinos (often called land casinos) relating to the tax advantages internet gaming gets and the potential revenue loss it brings to land casinos. Regarding how much casinos are taxed, online operators are taxed 20%, and land casinos are taxed 55%. This difference, though, was put in place with purpose, as online gaming is a more competitive industry.
While iGO Is Financially Successful, It Still Has Some Issues to Work Out
These concerns show there is still much uncertainty regarding internet gaming in the province. For some, though not all, this outweighs the revenue it has generated for the Ontario economy and become a global example for regulating online games. But, as with anything new, there’s a learning curve; with time, iGaming Ontario will likely see more successes and fewer worries.