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Ontario to open private sports betting market on April 4

Ontario will launch its long-awaited open market for single-sports betting on April 4. (GETTY)
Ontario will launch its long-awaited open market for single-sports betting on April 4. (GETTY) (Hispanolistic via Getty Images)

Ontario will launch its long-awaited open market for single-sports betting on April 4, allowing authorized private sportsbooks to begin taking bets.

iGaming Ontario, a subsidiary of the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO), says private gaming operators that have registered and executed an operating agreement with the agency can begin offering their games to players in Ontario beginning April 4.

"Consumers can be assured that companies who successfully enter the new Ontario market will have met rigorous standards of game and operator integrity, fairness, player protections and social responsibility, allowing all players to play with confidence," iGaming Ontario executive director Martha Otton stated in a news release on Friday.

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Canadian provinces gained the legal authority to allow bets on single sporting events on Aug. 27, 2021, the date when legislation amending Canada's criminal code took effect. Prior to the legal change prompted by the passage of Bill C-218 last summer, Canadians were restricted to parlay-style bets spanning multiple games or events. The Canadian Gaming Association (CGA) estimates billions in wagers from Canadian sports fans have flowed to offshore and unregulated online sportsbooks.

Ontario's plan to expand legal sports betting options allows an unlimited number of private sportsbooks to seek a licence to operate in the province. It's a departure from most other provinces, which have mainly appointed their lottery corporations to oversee new forms of betting. Alberta has signalled that it will allow private sportsbooks, but in a more limited way than Ontario.

Ontario's online gambling market is expected to generate $989 million in gross revenue in its first year, hitting $1.86 billion by 2026. Those figures, from research firm Vixio GamblingCompliance, assumed a launch in late-2021 or early 2022, a full range of products, and an effective tax rate of 20 per cent.

"This is another major milestone and achievement for Ontario's gaming industry," CGA president and CEO Paul Burns said in a statement on Friday. "We finally have the opportunity to safeguard the economic benefits that will start to flow to licensed gaming operators and the provincial government."

The announcement is an important milestone for a number of companies, including some of the largest in the North American gambling industry.

FanDuel, a sports betting and daily fantasy giant backed by Ireland-based Flutter Entertainment (FLTR.L), a company with a market capitalization well into the billions, has set up shop in Toronto. Score Media and Gaming, a fixture of Canada's sports media landscape since the 1990s, was snapped up by U.S. casino giant Penn National Gaming (PENN) last year in a US$2 billion deal. American sportsbooks BetMGM and DraftKings (DKNG) have also dropped hints that they're circling the market. (Yahoo Sports U.S. has a partnership with BetMGM in U.S. jurisdictions where single sports betting is legal.)

Scott Vanderwel, chief executive officer of the newly-minted Canadian arm of Australia-based PointsBet Holdings (PBH.AX), and a former media executive at Rogers Communications (RCI-B.TO), commended Ontario Premier Doug Ford's government on ushering in a new era of legal sports betting in Canada's most populous province.

"We will continue to work with our government partners to protect consumers and create a level playing field in a responsible and licensed gaming market," Vanderwel said in a press release.

More to follow.