We expect all registered operators to achieve and maintain the high standards of responsible gambling, player protection, and game integrity. Ontario regulators have fined a fourth operator for violating the province’s restrictive rules covering advertising and inducements.
This time, the alleged violator is Unibet, according to the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO).
In a statement, the AGCO alleged that Unibet’s Ontario subsidiary, Unibet ON Incorporated, had violated of its Standards for Internet Gaming.
Specifically, Unibet — a brand owned by Malta-based Kindred Group — allegedly violated Standard 2.05, which prohibits most advertising and marketing materials that include details on gambling inducements, bonuses, and credits. AGCO fined Unibet $48,000 CAD, about $37,000 USD currently.
According to the AGCO, Unibet allegedly “posted or aired multiple broad gambling inducements that promoted 'generous welcome offers.’” The agency alleged the operator made illegal advertisements between May 19 and May 22.
Such promotions are illegal, but there are two exceptions to the rule. Operators may post promotional information on their websites and via direct marketing to active players as long as they have their consent.
The AGCO will continue to monitor these gaming sites’ activities and ensure they are meeting their obligations under Ontario’s Gaming Control Act and the Standards. “We expect all registered operators to achieve and maintain the high standards of responsible gambling, player protection, and game integrity,” said Tom Mungham, the agency’s CEO. “The AGCO will continue to monitor these gaming sites’ activities and ensure they are meeting their obligations under Ontario’s Gaming Control Act and the Standards.”
The AGCO said Unibet could file an appeal with the License Appeal Tribunal (LAT), an adjudicative tribunal independent of the regulator.
Unibet was awarded a two-year internet gaming operator license in March, along with scores of other operators. It launched its online casino and sportsbook products in the province on April 4, the opening day for both markets.
Unibet has online sportsbooks live in six US states: Arizona, Indiana, Iowa, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.
Unibet Isn’t Alone in Drawing Regulatory Fines
To date, the AGCO had fined four operators for allegedly violating its rules — a pace that has the regulator roughly issuing fines to one operator for every month that the market for online poker, sports betting, and real money Ontario online casinos has been open.
The Canadian subsidiaries for BetMGM and PointsBet were the first two operators to draw fines from the AGCO, doing so on May 3.
The AGCO alleged that PointsBet violated Standard 2.05 and slapped the operator with a $30,000 CAD fine, which was worth about $23,400 USD.
The regulator said BetMGM allegedly broke Standard 2.05 but had also violated Standard 2.04, which requires operators to be truthful in their marketing, including advertisements and promotions. Like Unibet, BetMGM was fined $48,000 CAD by the AGCO — worth about $37,450 USD at the time.
The AGCO fined DraftKings in late June under similar circumstances.
The AGCO alleged that DraftKings had violated Standard 2.05 beginning on May 19, the day after DraftKings launched in the province. The regulator fined DraftKings $100,000 CAD, which was about $77,700 USD. The alleged violations ended on May 31.
Ontario is one of the few jurisdictions in the world that restricts public advertising or bonuses and other inducements. Gaming industry experts believe the fines are not unusual and reasonably commonplace in new markets.
Unibet is the first European operator fined by the AGCO. DraftKings is based in the US, while BetMGM is a joint venture between US-based MGM Resorts International and the UK’s Entain. PointsBet is headquartered in Australia.