Starting April 4, 2022, privately-owned online poker rooms can legally operate in Ontario as it launches its regulated online gambling market, making it the first Canadian province to allow private operators to offer their services to local residents.
Ontario is home to nearly 15 million people. As its regulated iGaming market goes live in April, it becomes the largest state or province in North America to offer legal online poker.
With such a huge market, Ontario is expected to attract multiple major operators, some of which may have already applied for a license and executed an agreement with the regulator, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO), and its subsidiary iGaming Ontario.
They said operators will begin testing their infrastructure in March in preparation for the launch of their respective sites a month later.
Here’s what we know so far about Ontario’s regulated online poker market:
Ontario Online Poker Market Will Be Initially Segregated
Ontario players will initially be ring-fenced, meaning they won’t be allowed to compete with other players outside the province. But this could change in the future as AGCO officials earlier indicated that it had placed “inter-jurisdictional compacts” under consideration, though it could not comment further on liquidity.
An interstate deal is currently in effect in the US through the Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement (MSIGA), participated in by the states of New Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware. Shared liquidity agreements also exist between Spain, Portugal, and Italy in Europe, as well as in Canada between the provinces of Manitoba, Quebec, and British Columbia.
Online Poker Sites That Could Go Live in Ontario
PokerStars earlier revealed that it was working with Ontario regulators to launch an online poker operation in the province. This indicates that PokerStars Ontario could be among the first operators to offer online poker to domestic players.
Another potential online poker room that could go live over the next few months is BetMGM. MGM Resorts CEO Bill Hornbuckle stated during the company’s Q4 2021 earnings call that they’re expanding their iGaming operations into Canada in April. As to what vertical they will offer is still unknown, but a BetMGM Poker Ontario launch remains a possibility.
A WSOP launch could also be in the cards. During Caesars Entertainment’s Q3 2021 earnings call back in November of last year, CEO Tom Reeg also indicated that they would enter Ontario. While there was no specific mention of the WSOP brand, it’s understood online poker will become part of the company’s Canadian expansion.
Playtech may also join the market and run an online poker network, but the decision will be mainly down to its partner operators.
As of this writing, there have been no other announcements yet from other online poker operators as to their plans in Ontario, but given the huge market size, it will come as no surprise if the other big operators, such as GGPoker, 888poker, and partypoker will also try to tap into the market.
In the last couple of years, GGPoker has focused its operations on regulated markets, securing licenses in the UK, Ukraine, Belgium, and the Netherlands.
GGPoker could potentially add Canada to its expansion targets, given its existing link with the Playground Poker Club which is based in Quebec. partypoker also has a long-standing partnership with the club and has been sponsoring live events there, so it might also consider launching in Ontario.
As for 888poker, the company previously stated that it intended to apply for a license in Ontario. The operator has yet to issue further statements on its plans, but it could also go live in the province.