In late July, the Ontario government released its first draft of sports betting regulations. They’re mostly small additions to its existing igaming regulations. However, a few of the sports betting regulatory sections offer critical insights into what Ontario has planned for its sports betting industry. The details will likely change as the government receives feedback from stakeholders. It’s one of Ontario’s goals in releasing this regulatory draft. But the sports betting details are still telling.
Ontario’s Sports Betting Regulations
Most of Ontario’s sports betting regulations are standard calls for transparency. They include definitions of the different types of wagers. The regulations also require sportsbooks to be transparent about what data they’re using to determine a bet’s outcome. Ontario also requires sportsbooks to take an extra step with some prohibited bettors. Prohibited bettors include anyone with non-public information, like sports coaches and athletes. These regulations require bettors to report these prohibited bettors to their sport governing bodies. Right off the bat, Ontario is making it clear that transparency and integrity are chief concerns for its new sports betting industry.
However, there are three things that stand out about this set of regulations:
- The possibility of making bets without creating an account
- Ontario’s approach to integrity risk mitigation
- The broad definition of acceptable bets
These features are a mix of innovative and concerning. We’ll take a look at each of these in detail to see what each could mean for Ontario’s approach to sports betting.
Betting Without An Account: An Early Mistake
This is the most likely regulation to change from the first draft. Section 4.25.2 states, in part:
“The results of bets on sporting or other events must be provided to players making bets on the events and be made accessible to the public…For players making bets not using accounts, players will be entitled to payment for winning bets once results of the event are confirmed.”
The idea of betting without a sportsbook account is concerning. When bettors create an account, sportsbooks collect enough information about bettors to know who they are. Sportsbooks can tell whether bettors are on the prohibited bettor list and how old they are. Ontario prohibits bettors under the age of 19, so sportsbooks need to know enough about their bettors to know whether they can legally bet.
Betting without a sportsbook account undermines Ontario’s commitment to keeping prohibited sports bettors from betting. Even the most responsible sportsbook can’t solve that problem on its own. So, Ontario will likely have to adjust its stance on sports betting without accounts.
Integrity Risk: Making Sure No One Profits From A Fixed Match
No one wants to be the first sportsbook to have a match-fixing scandal. Similarly, no state or Canadian province wants to be the first to allow that first sportsbook to profit from a match-fixing scandal. Ontario’s sports betting regulations have a special provision to protect the integrity of sports. It requires sportsbooks to:
- Collect information about suspicious bets.
- Share that information among other sportsbooks.
- Submit any suspicious betting to an independent integrity monitor.
If the independent integrity monitor believes there’s a match-fixing scandal brewing, it’ll send the suspicious wager data to the relevant sport’s governing body. Finally, Ontario gives sportsbooks the ability to void wagers on fixed matches. That way, no one can profit from a compromised sporting event. Even in its early draft, Ontario has created a robust system to prevent sportsbooks from participating in fraud. Ontario should keep this section of its sports betting regulations intact, and even expand it into a detailed procedure.
Acceptable Bets: Sportsbooks Have Room To Innovate
In the United States, each state’s gaming commission lists bets that sportsbooks can legally offer. However, Ontario is taking a different approach. It has defined acceptable bets broadly enough that sportsbooks have room to innovate without having to submit a proposal to a Canadian gaming commission. Ontario has set 11 criteria that each licensed sport and wager must meet, including but not limited to:
- The outcome of the event being bet on can be documented and verified.
- The outcome of the event being bet on can be generated by a reliable and independent process.
- The outcome of the event being bet on is not affected by any bet placed.
- The event being bet on is effectively supervised by a sports governing body (not applicable to novelty bets.)
- There are integrity safeguards in place which are sufficient to mitigate the risk of match-fixing, cheat-at-play, and other illicit activity that might influence the outcome of bet upon events.
These are only some of the criteria, but bettors can see how much room sportsbooks have to expand betting lines. This could be a way for Ontario to gain an edge over even competitive states like Michigan, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. It’ll be interesting to see how this section evolves after industry feedback.
Ontario’s Early Competitiveness
Ontario will set the stage for the rest of Canadian sports betting and influence the other provinces’ sports betting regulations. So, these early regulations are critical to understanding where sports betting could go in Canada.
So far, Ontario’s sports betting industry prioritizes transparency, integrity, and innovation. It will inform bettors about the back end of their sportsbooks, and hold sportsbooks to the highest ethical standards. However, sportsbooks will retain the ability to expand their offerings as needed. It’s an exciting peek at what the future could be, but the regulations remain vague. They sound good at this early stage, but the details of their implementation will determine whether Canada can live up to this early excitement.