Sports Betting in Ontario: How does it compare to the US?
With attitudes towards sports betting shifting across the world, Ontario is one of the most recent regions to join the wave of countries, states and provinces legalizing sports betting.
Canada has had a long and, at times, rocky path to legalization. However, despite the many obstacles faced along the way, things are looking incredibly positive for the sports betting sector across the country.
Thanks to a legislative initiative that came to a head in the summer of 2023, single-game sports betting was finally permitted — ending a decades-old prohibition.
The result of this has been monumental across the country. Following the passage of Bill C-218, many provincial governments have worked quickly to fully legalize this popular activity.
As a result, there are now numerous sports betting platforms operating across the country. If you want a full run-down of who has set up shop in Ontario in recent months, check out WSN.com for more info!
But what is the current situation in Canada’s most populous province, and how has the Ontario government handled this transition to a fully legal sports betting sector?
Legalization: US and Canada compared
In the US, a decades-old federal prohibition on sports betting was struck down by the United States Supreme Court in a landmark 2018 decision.
In this decision, the Supreme Court ruled that a federal gambling statute that had previously prohibited sports betting, the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, violated the 10th Amendment to the US Constitution. Commenting on this act, the Supreme Court held that it had illegally empowered the federal government to take actions to ban sports betting, when this was a power that should have been left to state legislatures.
While not itself legalizing sports betting, this decision did open the door for state legislatures to pass acts either banning or allowing sports betting within their state lines.
The result of this decision can’t be understated. As a direct consequence of the Supreme Court ruling, sports betting has grown to be a multi-billion dollar industry in the space of a few short years.
Interestingly, the sports betting sector in Canada has also recently undergone some significant legal changes which have opened up the industry.
However, rather than emanating from a single decision of the Canadian Supreme Court, certain forms of sports betting had a long history of being permitted by the federal and provincial governments.
While many different forms of sports betting were permitted under the Canadian Criminal Code and the various provincial laws, there was still a ban on single-game wagering. All that was permitted was parlay betting, where the bettor picks multiple results which must all be correct in order to win, and horse racing.
The movement to fully legalize sports betting in Canada came to a head in 2023, when Bill C-218 was introduced by the federal Parliament. Bill C-218 contained amendments to the Canadian Criminal Code that would allow provincial governments to legalize single-game sports betting. In doing so, one of the last restrictions to fully legal sports wagering in Canada was lifted!
Much like in the US, the consequences of this development have been significant. Since Bill C-218 came into effect in June 2023 — after languishing in the Senate for months, at one stage even looking like it would be pushed back to the next parliamentary session — we have already seen a number of sports betting operators launch across the provinces.
Sports betting in Ontario: How does it work?
Although it passed through the parliamentary stages and received royal assent in June 2023, it was not until Summer 2023 that Bill C-218 properly came into effect in Ontario.
Ontario was the first province to launch its officially regulated sports gambling program under Bill C-218, with a number of sports betting platforms already operating in the province. It is estimated that in the first year alone, the Ontario government will generate up to $800m in gross revenue from sports, with a population of 14.5 million.
One of the biggest consequences of Bill C-218 is that it will decrease reliance on offshore sportsbooks, which have traditionally dominated the Canadian market. These offshore platforms operated in a legal grey area as they were not formally prohibited.
The sports betting market in Ontario will now be overseen by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario, which will ensure that any sportsbook operators adhere to the rules in place, such as minimum age limits. The Alcohol and Gaming Commission has proven to be an active regulator under this expanded jurisdiction, having already issued fines to operators for falling afoul of the new regulations.
These operators will also have to ensure they don’t fall afoul of the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation, or iGaming Ontario, who also have a regulatory mandate for this activity.
Individuals in Ontario who are a minimum age of 19 years old can now legally access online sports books in the province under the new regulations.
So far, 13 sportsbooks have received official approval to launch in the province, with many of these operators already having a significant presence in the US and European markets.
Sports betting in Ontario: What the future holds
Despite only recently having launched, the signs for legal sports betting in Ontario are all positive so far.
From the consumer’s perspective, things have never been better. There is a growing list of officially authorized online sports books in the province, who are all offering an increasingly expansive set of services. Additionally, these operators are also offering a wide range of promotions and bonuses as they compete for new users.
From the government’s perspective, things are also positive. In addition to the growing tax revenue they are making from this popular pastime, the provincial regulators also appear to be doing their job well, having already issued multiple fines.
As the industry in Ontario grows, sponsorship money will also continue to pour in. A number of major Ontario sports teams have already secured sponsorship deals with some of the platforms, including both hockey and basketball teams. These deals will give sports teams a much-needed financial boost as they recover from Covid-induced revenue slumps.
Overall, things are looking very positive for Ontario sports betting fans. Despite only being a few months old, the sector looks set to continue to grow in the coming months and years. Whether this level of positive growth will be experienced in other provinces, however, remains to be seen.