Ontario regulators warned operators hoping to launch on April 4 that they must cease all unregulated activities and end any business with third-party companies who may also be engaged in such activities in the province.
The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) also stipulated that operators cannot provide gaming devices, equipment, or kiosks to help players access an online site from a retail establishment. However, the regulator said that it was not imposing any advertising or marketing restrictions on operators — for now.
The flurry of details was included in the Internet Gaming Go-Live Compliance Guide, which the AGCO released on Friday.
Regulator: Get Out of Ontario Gray Market
At first blush, the AGCO’s directives on compliance show that the regulator will be closely monitoring the operators that are hoping to provide online poker, casino gaming, and sports betting in Ontario when the market goes live on April 4. It is also very clear that the AGCO wants operators to exit the unregulated iGaming market in Ontario.
“We will be monitoring registrant compliance with the requirement that a) they cease unregulated market operations in Ontario and b) terminate any association they may have with any other company that operates an unregulated scheme in Ontario,” the AGCO said.
The first part of that statement appears to be a warning to operators with multiple brands that they should not attempt to operate one brand in the regulated space while operating another simultaneously in the gray market. Meanwhile, the second part hints that supplier agreements could face regulatory scrutiny as well, especially if a supplier in question provides services that the AGCO has characterized as illegal.
All operators and suppliers must also be in compliance with the province’s Gaming Control Act of 1992.
While the AGCO declined to set limits on advertising and marketing by operators, it said it would revisit the issue in the months ahead. “We will consider additional measures if warranted,” the regulator said.
That said, operators will still need to comply with responsible gambling (RG) requirements outlined in the AGCO registrar’s Standards for Internet Gaming. Among these are requirements that advertising not target high-risk, underage, or self-excluded individuals.
Operators will also not be allowed to provide devices like a tablet to customers in order to help them access an online gaming site. Kiosks are also verboten because their presence would, in effect, create “a land-based gaming site” that runs afoul of Ontario law, the AGCO said.
Other Regulatory Directives for Ontario iGaming Operators
The compliance requirements in the new guide were previously outlined by the AGCO in an engagement paper that the regulator issued in June 2021. The regulator said it incorporated feedback from the industry and the public into the guide, which is divided into five sections and includes three appendices.
The first section of the guide outlines the holistic approach the AGCO took toward compliance and includes the aforementioned directives on advertising, devices, kiosks, and exiting the unregulated space. The section also includes “risk-based” and “outcome-focused” parameters from the AGCO registrar’s standards.
The risk-based parameters refer to the regulatory risks underlying the standards themselves, while the outcome-focused measures center on results that operators and gaming suppliers are expected to achieve.
“This focus on risks and outcomes in the standards provides greater flexibility for individual operators and [gaming suppliers] to design control activities that fit their business operations and then to adapt those controls quickly and cost-effectively as those operations change over time — always ensuring that our outcome-based standards are being met,” the AGCO said.
“It also means that our regulatory program maintains its relevance, even in sectors where change is fast-paced, including where technology is deeply integrated in how the business is delivered.”
The guide’s first section also covers:
- Effective internal control environment
- Responsible gambling
- Game design and integrity
- Suspicious or criminal activities
- Security and privacy
Section 2 of the guide outlines the process for operators and gaming suppliers to follow in order to demonstrate their technology is compliant with the AGCO’s standards. A registrant’s CEO and CCO, or their equivalents, must submit a signed letter to the regulator ensuring the technology they plan to deploy is compliant. An appendix that includes supporting evidence of compliance — including assessments on geolocation tracking and security vulnerability — must also be submitted.
The remaining three sections of the guide cover control activities, the certification of iGaming technologies, and notification requirements — which include reports on incidents, scheduled reports of data indicators, and other submissions to the AGCO.
Bet365 Awarded License
On Tuesday, the AGCO issued an internet gaming operator license to Bet365, a large privately-held operator based in the UK. The addition of Bet365 brings the total number of operators authorized to launch when the market opens to 14.
The Bet365 license shows that the operator has already secured 18 internet domains for its gaming site and four domains for its mobile app.
The addition of Bet365 could be a sign of a fifth online poker operator launching in the province. 888poker Ontario and WSOP Ontario have both been awarded licensure and are preparing to launch, while PokerStars Ontario and partypoker Ontario are still working with the AGCO to be licensed. Bet365 runs a large online sportsbook in the UK, but it also offers poker.
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