Sunday, May 26, 2024

LATEST Canadian casino industry updates

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Jillian Castillo
Jillian Castillo
"Proud thinker. Tv fanatic. Communicator. Evil student. Food junkie. Passionate coffee geek. Award-winning alcohol advocate."

The casino industry in Canada has exploded in recent years, and if it doesn’t seem that way to you then you have not been online enough, my friend.

Yes, it is the iGaming market that is doing so well since gaming developers like Playson and online casino operators like Kings Media Limited have been granted licence to do business in Ontario by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO).

But only after lengthy and overdue efforts to meet Canada’s high regulatory standards of course. And such standards are certainly no waste of time either – AGCO and friends test games for rigging and business practices for, well, dodginess… all to ensure quality and integrity for bettors.

Well, that is what both Canadian and American regulatory bodies do, although Canadians take things a step further by outlawing any organisation that is not charitable with its profits. Hence all the ‘lottery schemes’ you have likely come across, and indeed echoing the Ontario Lottery and Gambling Corporation which dished out licences that are far less stringent and is now being forced by the government to share its empire, lest it crumble. It was announced in 2019 that the government would be dismantling the licensing framework of OLGC.

The new transitions extend to the familiar too: only a week or so ago Sports Interaction and its books joined the regulated iGaming market from the Mohawk council of Kahnawake to AGCO. Just two weeks ago 888-owned company William Hill announced that it will suspend all operations and activities in Ontario until it gets its license from the AGCO, taking no new registrations.

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As casino-based gambling has increased in popularity in Canada, so too has financial crime (such as money laundering), hence the need for an update in regulation. Lately, now that standards are being met, it seems a dam has split, and the online casino scene has swept forth in a deluge of dollar signs and flashing colours. But to fully appreciate the winning situation in which we find ourselves, first let us take a peek at the past…

The indigenous games played with bones known as ‘Slahal’ notwithstanding, the history of Canadian Gambling is a particularly spikey one…

Back in the sixties and prior still, gambling was fully outlawed and so no one at all facilitated it… apart from outlaws. Cryptic slang encoded bets, prices were sub textually woven into the sale of groceries, wagers were placed on creatures racing in faraway lands as police refused to admit that the racketeers behind it were little more than modern folklore. European settlers had long since turned the ancient practice into a business of crime, just like the sale of alcohol in nineteen twenties America.

But then in 1970 that all began to change with the limited legalization of gambling. As times wore on to the mid-eighties, slots and sportsbooks alike became more regulated as provinces were given the power to govern the legal casinos that had started to crop up over the past fifteen years. Naturally this weakened the pinstriped villains and the dangers that came with them, both economical and physical ones. Actually, they would have worn more plain clothes so as not to draw attention to themselves!

Despite the government’s best efforts there are, to this day, a great deal of illegal operations running and indeed going down in courts of law. Though times have changed, and the next generation of gamblers are rolling dice in pastures new. Digital pastures, namely. It is not that brick-and-mortar casinos are not doing well (over 80 per cent of Ontario Adults claim to have engaged in the practice of gambling at a physical casino in the past year) it is just that people are finding more and more that the online alternative offers more satisfaction and success.

But how so? Well, satisfaction because the quantity of games is so immense that trying to imagine a casino that would accommodate them all without computers offering essentially the same service is inconceivable. Not to mention the fact that one scarcely needs to leave their chair, bean bag or lover’s arms to get the thrill of gambling, let alone their house and neighbourhood. And as for success that is a share of the industry’s success: The bonuses on offer are far more generous because CEOs are saving a ton of digits by opting for online rather than offline casinos. The reason why is kind of obvious really, running a successful physical casino is expensive (think of all the carpet treatment!).

Saskatchewan is currently, in fact, the only province that has so far not taken advantage of the boom – it has zero online casinos. And in terms of deals in the works there are none to report either… The reasons for this are foggy since Saskatchewan’s provincial authority has played the game with bricks and mortar casinos. It has nine of those. Yes, curious numbers in SK!  The potential issue with Saskatchewan’s approach is that citizens there will seek their thrills at online casinos whose servers are based offshore, having no alternative but to drive god knows how far to one of the nine houses. Offshores are legal for both the bettor and the casino, as long as said casino does not target Canadian users specifically. Although this is not inherently bad, offshores sidestep the aforementioned regulatory bodies and as such offer no charitable boons, nor do they guarantee safety and fairness. Unnecessary and unreasonable risk, unlike the new online casinos on the block.

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Anyway, what else is new? The culture of gambling itself – recent developments have been a two-way process in the sense that online casinos are adapting to this mainstream market in which they have so recently found themselves. A big difference is the leaps and bounds taken with regard to customer safety: gamblers are equipped with the tools to look after themselves when betting. This means self-bans on games, spend limits and even agreements with their banks to withhold transactions. It is safe to say that the forecast is sunny in the industry!

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