Welcome to the interview with Mike Hunter, the co-founder of an online casino reviewing platform that creates honest and insightful reviews for players and provides tons of educational content. Upon a major shift in the iGaming industry in Ontario, all stakeholders not only in the province or in the country, but across the globe started wondering about the consequences and benefits. In this interview, Mike comments upon the most impressive results for the Ontarian and Canadian iGaming markets.
“The practical outcome is that, according to the industry measurements, from 2022 to 2023, the market increased by 50% every quarter. In a year, it means a 200% growth of the industry, an immense indication with an increased number of jobs, increased taxes, increased charity, etc.”
Q: Until last year, OLG was a monopolist in the online gambling market in Ontario, and in April 2022, a major change happened. What was the reason for this change?
Mike: The key reason for the change was probably the pandemic because while OLG had its own online gambling platform for local players, it had no licensing options for private operators. And it just wasn’t able to manage the huge demand or compete with offshore casino sites in terms of games variety, bonus offers, etc. So probably, instead of fighting against the trends and keeping competitive online gambling businesses in the grey zone, the government of Ontario decided to ride the wave and it was the right choice.
Q: So the key change for online casino operators is that they can apply for and get a license by AGCO to offer online gambling services to players in Ontario legally. And what has changed for the players?
Mike: Players can now gamble at the best international online casinos with thousands of games, safely; there was no such option before because these sites were in the grey zone. You don’t have to be an officially registered resident of the province to legally sign up for an online casino and enjoy its services, but you have to be physically present within the borders of the province to do that. By now, there are over 70 Ontario online casinos that have AGCO license, which means huge choice and variety for players.
Q: What was the immediate impact of the new law on a massive scale?
Mike: Well, already in 2023, the legal iGaming market of Ontario – not Canada but exclusively Ontario, mind yourself – became one of the top 5 iGaming jurisdictions on the continent. This is a jaw-dropping result for a province.
Q: What’s the practical outcome for the province?
Mike: The practical outcome is that, according to the industry measurements, from 2022 to 2023, the market increased by 50% every quarter. In a year, it means a 200% growth of the industry, an immense indication with an increased number of jobs, increased taxes, increased charity, etc. Moreover, growth in such industries boosts digital industries a lot as new technologies start developing, like data safety, payments, chat bots, design, and so on. People start getting education to later work in these industries. So this is a massive boost.
According to the Ontario gambling stats we collected for our project, by January 2023, the total gaming revenue in the province reached $526 million and this is a serious number. In 2023, the number of player accounts in Ontario reached 1 million. People from other provinces that visit Ontario also get interested in the opportunity of gambling so this growth isn’t limited to the actual registered population of the province. In other words, we can discuss positive practical outcomes for Ontario for another hour.
Q: Wow, isn’t 1 million gambling accounts a bit too much?
Mike: Well, there are around 15 million people living in the province, but this doesn’t mean that one in 15 people plays online casino games. In a survey in 2022, around a third of Ontarians stated they were registered at least on one gambling platform, but firstly, this is only slightly a bit above the average across the whole Canada, and secondly, most people have 2 and more gambling accounts on different platforms.
Q: But do people really gamble on newly licensed sites now? What prevents them from continuing to play for real money on whatever other platform they encounter.
Mike: Well, firstly, the new rules are rather strict for the casino operators and if a casino site gets its AGCO license it is safe, reliable, and decent enough for real money play. And if people have an option of fun gambling on a safer site versus a fun gamble on an unsafe site they will choose a safer platform if other aspects are similar or alike. As I said, the majority of big, reliable international platforms that people preferred before the new law are now licensed for Ontario so they can play legally and safely. And eventually, in 2023, 85% of gamblers in the province actually reported they only play on regulated platforms now.
Q: What has changed for residents of Ontario who do not gamble, in terms of this new industry development boost?
Mike: Well, according to the industry surveys, already in summer and autumn of 2022 people started seeing more ads of casinos and especially sports betting, so the businesses in ads and in social media have also felt the change. On the other hand, more educational information appeared online and on social media which is good.