Regulated online poker rooms, online casinos, and sportsbooks are coming to Ontario, Canada on April 4, 2022, in a big way.
Already, top-tier operators such as BetRivers, Unibet, 888, and FanDuel have obtained licenses, allowing them to offer a mix of online gambling options to players come April.
As such, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) — which oversees the regulation and legalization in the province — is outlining the ways in which the operators need to keep their players safe while gambling online with a whole host of responsible gambling (RG) requirements.
“Responsible gambling is a key AGCO priority and central to the public interest,” it reads on the responsible gambling pages of the AGCO. “The intent of this risk theme is to ensure that gaming is provided in a way that seeks to minimize potential harm and promote a responsible gaming environment.”
The AGCO insists operators meet certain responsible gambling measures in order to be licensed and legally authorized to accept real money wagers in the province of Ontario.
Responsible Gaming Tools Provided by Operators
The AGCO insists that “easy and obvious ways to set gaming limits” are baked into each and every licensed operator’s platform. These tools will be available to players at all times — upon registration and at any time after registration.
These responsible gaming tools include:
- Deposit Limits: These allow players to set a maximum amount they can deposit on the site, usually further filtered down by day, week, or month. Once the user hits that limit, they won’t be able to deposit any more funds into their account until that time period lapses and a new one begins.
- Loss Limits: These allow a player to set the maximum amount they are prepared to lose — once this figure is hit, play will be stopped.
- Time Limits: These allow a player to set a maximum amount of time they are able to stay on a site. Some operators even break this out by game type so that a player can set a maximum amount of time they are allowed to stay at one game.
The AGCO states that, at the bare minimum, the following must be provided:
- Players need to be able to set loss and deposit limits during registration.
- Operators must offer players the options of setting limits on any number of the following:
- Deposit limits
- Loss limits
- Time limits
- Gaming limits
Self-Exclusion at Ontario Online Gambling Sites
If the responsible gambling tools don’t help curb harmful gambling behavior, then AGCO has a requirement that operators must provide a voluntary self-exclusion program for their sites. Self-exclusion means that a player can effectively ban themselves from being able to play on a site for a predetermined period of time.
For players who are looking to step away from the action for a shorter period of time, operators will offer the option to take a time out or cooling-off period, which allows players to take an enforced break for any period of time from one day, one week, one month, two months, or three months, where they will not be allowed to play on the site. During this time, the operator is not allowed to incentivize the player to come back via promotions or special offers.
For those looking to take a break for a longer period of time, they have the option to self-exclude, which could be for six months, one year, five years, or a lifetime ban.
AGCO states that “Operators will be required to participate in a coordinated, centralized self-exclusion program, that shall be in place to allow players to automatically exclude themselves from all online Operator platforms”. This will also include the state lottery.
Detecting Harmful Gambling Behavior
The AGCO will require operators to put in place robust systems that detect harmful gambling behaviors early and efficiently. “Operators shall include a risk profile for players at high risk of experiencing gambling-related harm,” and there will be processes in place to monitor and help such individuals. For example, such measures could include flagging accounts that deposit a certain amount of money in a certain amount of time or appear to be chasing losses. Once the behavior of concern is detected, the operator will reach out to the player, assess the situation, and decide how to proceed.
Education on How to Gamble Responsibly
The operator needs to offer “support, integrate, and disseminate information to enable players to make informed decisions and encourage safer play” — this means that the onus is on the operator to make sure players are made aware of the safer gambling tools and resources available to them.
Players need to be told:
- What responsible gambling tools are available and where on the site or app they can be found.
- How the different games work and outline any common misconceptions.
- Information on self-exclusion needs to be provided to all players.
- Resources and information on the variety of services available to players if they start showing harmful gambling behavior.
Games must be designed in a safe and fair way. For online poker and casino games in Ontario, the design must not mislead players. For online sportsbooks the AGCO insists that the method of making the best is “straightforward and understandable.”
The RG information must be made available so that the players are clearly informed of the details of the bet prior to actually placing the bet.
Advertising Rules for Ontario iGaming Operators
Operators must adhere to strict rules when advertising their products to players in the province.
The adverts including any marketing material shall not target high-risk, underage, or self-excluded persons or anyone else deemed high-risk or underage. All marketing must be truthful and shall not mislead players.
Standards on marketing and ads that include offers or bonuses are also dictated, as this is only allowed either directly on the operator’s site or after receiving active player consent. Players can not be cold-called, as it were.
iGaming Employee Training
In order to obtain a license to operate in Ontario, AGCO is requiring that all staff members that work for an iGaming operator must undergo training to understand the importance of responsible gambling. The training will also cover the impact of player protection as well as the fundamental concepts of responsible gambling and problem gambling.
Wider Responsible Gaming Policies
Operators will adhere to AGCO policies and procedures that will identify, prevent, and minimize the risks of harm from gaming to players. These include responsible gambling efforts being at the core of the business — with the training of staff playing a core role. The AGCO will carry out regular reviews of the RG policies to make sure operators are keeping to the standards as laid out here.
Learn more in our complete guide to Ontario online casinos »