Sportsbook operators are urging Québec to become Canada's next open sports betting market.
In May, eight Canadian sportsbooks formed the Québec Online Gaming Coalition to try to push regulators to allow private operators to operate in Québec. Currently, in Quebec the only sports bets can be made through Loto-Québec's Mise-o-jeu.
The goal of the coalition is to help the Québec government establish an independent regulatory body and framework to be followed for commercial online gaming. It was influenced by the touted success of Ontario sports betting regulators. According to the operators, following the example of the neighbouring province is the best solution for Québec.
The push to open additional provincial jurisdictions to private operators comes as state officials in the United States seek federal assistance in clamping down on unlawful black-market operators in the country.
The New Coalition for Canada Sports Betting
Canada's largest province, Ontario, is now open to private eGaming companies, which is why operators are eager to get permission to operate in Canada's second-largest province, Québec. With a population of 8.7 million, Québec is almost the same size as Virginia.
In the list below, you can see the eight founding operators of the coalition:
- Apricot Investments
- Games Global
- Rush Street Interactive
The members of the coalition have different experiences that combine both the casino industry and large sports betting operators such as the parents of BetMGM and US sports betting leader FanDuel.
On the other hand, some operators included in the coalition, such as Betway and Bet99, have experience operating in Ontario's unregulated gray market and therefore advocate the implementation of a licensing and tax structure. In this way, the coalition hopes ‘to address growing concerns about consumer safety, responsible gaming, advertising, and substantially increasing government revenues’.
Leger Marketing's recent survey of Québecers on gaming in the province and its findings are what prompted the formation of the coalition. The results show:
- 64% believe income may be used to fund government initiatives;
- 66% of respondents support regulating private gambling operators;
- 71% feel the government cannot prevent private businesses from operating.
The Sports Betting Model of Ontario
On April 4th, 2022, the regulated market in Ontario was launched. In the first year, more than $35 billion in bets were placed and operators generated revenues of $1.4 billion. These results do not include ProLine+ numbers, which was established in August 2021 by the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp.
Currently, there are over 30 online gaming sites in Ontario. A survey conducted in March in Canada's largest province found that 85.3% of gamblers played on regulated sites in the first year of its existence. However, advertising and marketing restrictions are imposed on the market. The aim of the regulators is to try to reduce sports betting advertising in the province.
Ontario regulators believe they have accomplished one of the primary goals of opening up the province to legal gambling, and that is the migration of operators from the gray market to the regulated market.
The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario Registrar and CEO Tom Mungham said that ‘A key objective in this first year has been to move Ontario players from playing on unregulated sites to the regulated market, so that they would benefit from high standards of operator and game integrity, fairness and player protections including responsible gambling safeguards’.
After the transition period ended in October 2022, at least 17 operators ceased operating on the grey market. At the same time, a number of international operators such as bet365 and Betway had already started work on the regulated market.
"Although there is still much work to be done, we are pleased to see such a substantial shift towards gaming on regulated sites so far."
He added that ‘Although there is still much work to be done, we are pleased to see such a substantial shift towards gaming on regulated sites so far, and everything that it represents for players and for the province’.
While sports betting advocates tout the success of Ontario's regulated market, it lags behind iGaming markets in the U.S., including less populated states like New Jersey and Michigan. Approximately 15 million people live in Ontario, which would make it the fifth-largest state in the US.
iGaming operators in New Jersey for the period from April 2021 to February 2023 generated revenues of $2.3 billion. For comparison, converted to US dollars, Ontario's revenue equals $1 billion. As a result, some operators have pulled out of the Ontario market because they are unhappy with the newly created competition and prefer to focus on grey markets.
Is Québec the Next Province for Legal Sports Betting?
Before the Criminal Code change was enacted by lawmakers in 2021, efforts to legalize gambling in Canada took years. Quebec was recommended back in 2014 by the Online Gambling Task Force to create a niche gambling regulatory authority to deal with the licensing of private operators.
Almost ten years later after single-game betting was legalized in Canada, Ontario opened the virtual doors of the gaming industry to private operators. The applied pressure and the specific framework could help Quebec to cross the line. Currently, however, outside of Ontario, the unregulated grey market continues to operate in other provinces.