In late January, in the midst of a winter storm that shut down Toronto and closed schools, a new Ontario sports betting report was leaked to the CBC about the impacts on the provincial finances from the legalization and proliferation of online gaming, which allegedly would cost the province up to $2.8B over the next five years.
While not directly about the impact of sports betting and more about the consequences for brick and mortar casinos and how the tax affairs would work, the leak did provide important clues for sports bettors looking for the launch of legal sports betting in Ontario.
What Does This Report Have To Do With Sports betting?
Great Canadian Gaming, operators of most Ontario casinos, gave this report to the CBC because of their fear that if online operators are allowed into the gaming space, physical casinos will lose money and therefore, due to casinos likely paying more in tax than online gaming operators, the province will lose money.
Putting aside whether that’s true or not, what GCG are scared of is online sports betting sites, whether it’s grey market sites that become legal or American operators like DraftKings or FanDuel, coming into the market and using their sports platforms to take market share away from brick and mortar casinos (once reopened after COVID restrictions lift) by shifting customers to their casino and poker offerings.
With the expected legalization of sports betting, this risk is becoming much more real, and GCG is clearly becoming increasingly concerned, to the point where they’re commissioning, and leaking, reports claiming online gaming will hurt the province.
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Why Is The Timing Important?
Ontario goes to the polls in June, and the provincial government is taking a hit in the polls over COVID handling (amongst other issues). It’s always been clear that the government will want a decision before the election on sports betting operators, because if not, the decision could get punted all the way to July, thereby skipping the NHL playoffs and one of the most heavy betting times in Canada.
Additionally, in the CBC report, a government spokesperson said that more information on the finances of online gaming decisions could be forthcoming in the upcoming budget, a logical time to announce Ontario online sports betting opening.
Functionally, an opening of the sports betting market and of the online gaming market will be the same, because of the nature of the operators themselves. Because so many of the sportsbook operators also operator casinos or poker operations, once they’re allowed to operate, it’ll be functionally impossible to limit one without the other.
What Does This Mean For Bettors?
The government has announced that they’re launching on April 4th, so that they could get as much of the NHL and NBA stretch runs as possible.
While we can’t say for sure when an election-year budget from the Ford Government might come, a government that sold cheap beer as one of its key commitments in the run-up to the last election will view the freedom to legally bet on sports as a winning issue for them, so they made sure they got this up and running before then.
As it has always been, Ontario’s legal sports betting market is set to launch April 4th, and while they didn’t mean to, that leaked report from Great Canadian Gaming was a boon to the fortunes of those hoping for a swift opening of the Ontario market or those just looking at New Yorkers with envy.