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Ontarians wagering far more on legal online casino games than on sports betting

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New figures released by iGaming Ontario (iGO) show that Ontario’s total bets on online casino games are much higher than those spent on sports-related betting, offering the first glimpse of how these two segments compare.

Last year, the state launched a regulated online gaming marketplace, allowing licensed operators to offer services such as casino games, sports betting and poker services.

Data released this week by iGO, a subsidiary of the Ontario Alcohol and Gaming Commission that manages the regulated market, shows Ontarians wagered a total of $14 billion. In the recent April-June period.

These include:

  • Casino-related wagering includes $11.6 billion, according to iGO, including slots, live and computer-based table games and peer-to-peer bingo.
  • $2 billion in betting on sports, esports, proposals and novelties.
  • $350 million in peer-to-peer poker games.

Combined, these bets generated $545 million in gaming revenue. By comparison, The market generated $162 million in these revenues It went live for the first time during the same quarter last year.

The newly released iGO data doesn’t break down where the revenue went. But iGO told CBC News that the Ontario government received a cut of about $260 million in gaming revenue in the market’s first full year.

While this rapid growth is a boon for government revenues and private market operators, it can also cause problems in the form of problematic gambling. Ontario had over 900,000 active player accounts in his last three quarters.

“The numbers are increasing the odds of gambling addiction and harm,” said Michael Narain, associate professor of sports management at Brock University, in an email.

Nigel Turner, a scientist at the Toronto-based Center for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), which studies behavioral addictions, including gambling, said the growth iGO is reporting is quite surprising, even as various online gambling products have been heavily touted since the launch of the regulated market.

“We’re really inundated with sports betting ads,” Turner said. “Online casino ads are also inundated.”

He agrees that as more people gamble, more people can be expected to have gambling problems.

“National Leader”: State

While the Ontario government touts its market success so far, it also points to the resources it has devoted to protecting consumers and supporting problem gambling.

“As the results show, we are the national leader through the online gaming market,” state attorney general spokesman Andrew Kennedy said in an emailed statement.

Kennedy said the state funds $31 million a year for problem gambling. $25 million will go to treatment programs and $6 million to education and prevention activities.

The Ontario government touts the success of its regulated online gambling market, but also cites the resources it has devoted to protecting consumers and supporting problem gambling. (Patrick Morrell/CBC)

Turner said it’s important for people to know there are ways to get help. His website at CAMH explains how People with gambling problems in Ontario — including your family — you can.

Meanwhile, IGaming Ontario said in an email to CBC News that it “continues to be pleased with the performance” of the state’s online gaming market, noting that the market has grown to more than 40 operators.

William Woodhams, CEO of British bookmaker Fitzdares, which operates in Ontario, said in an email that iGO’s figures reflect the industry’s view that Ontario has developed a healthy and mature market.

“Other states and global markets are now looking to Ontario as a benchmark for a healthy market,” Woodhams said previously, noting that casino products have historically held a performance advantage over sports betting in Ontario.

Peter Czegledy, partner at Toronto’s Aird & Berlis LLP and chairman of the Gaming Group, doubts there’s room for further growth in the Ontario market “as carriers refine their products to best fit the market and have more established customer relationships.”

In an email, he said he wouldn’t be surprised if industry consolidation eventually happened, saying this was a common development “in any market that starts with strong expansion.”

Kennedy said the government hopes to “continue to see growth” as the industry expands further.

What the Industry Expected

The single-event sports betting sector in Ontario’s regulated market has come under particular scrutiny since its launch, including advertising, industry ties to professional athletes and concerns over sports integrity.

Sports leagues and broadcasters are under pressure in places like Ontario to cut high-wattage advertising for gambling-related services, but there are concerns about what that exposure means for younger viewers.

Experts also point to potential risks for those of legal age, such as the types of gambling products offered to Ontarians.

Watch | The world of gambling and sports:

Sports betting goes full throttle, isn’t it too much?

Since federal law eased rules on sports betting in 2021, Ontario has gone full throttle, creating what many call the Wild West gambling environment. CBC’s Jamie Strassin explores how single-game betting has changed the game for some fans, and why addiction experts are concerned.

But Chegredy said despite the media focus on the gambling aspect, the disparity in activity between casino games and sports-related products in Ontario is consistent with industry expectations.

“The difference in segment performance was as expected,” Chegredy said.

The newly released iGO data also provides a breakdown of the gaming segment for the first year of the regulated market.

From April 4, 2022 to the end of March 2023, total stakes in regulated markets were $35.6 billion, according to iGO.

Nearly $28 billion of that was spent on casino games and peer-to-peer bingo. That’s nearly four times the $7 billion spent on betting, including sports and esports betting. Peer-to-peer poker bets totaled $992 million for the year.

Combined, these gambling activities resulted in $1.4 billion in gaming revenue, of which $940 million came from the casino sector and $433 million from gambling, iGO reports. The rest was poker.

“24 hours a day, 365 days a year” access

Andrew Kim, assistant professor of psychology at Toronto Metropolitan University, said these newly released figures only show how much online gambling is now compared to before the launch of the regulated market.

Part of the concern about the move to legal markets is rooted in how much gambling activity will increase, he said.

As for casino games, he noted that they are not restricted to the duration of professional sporting events televised.

“Online casinos are available 24/7,” Kim said.

Blue Jay's Matt Chapman celebrates with Toronto first base coach Mark Buzynski.
Advertisements for sports betting products appear in the background of the Blue Jays-Padres baseball game at Toronto’s Rogers Center on Tuesday. (Bourne Ridley/Getty Images)

Brock University’s Narain said sports betting may be getting the most attention from critics, but he sees it as a “dangerous herring” because casino games are the “bigger culprit.”

Not only are these games accessible 24 hours a day, they can be played almost anywhere and take less time to join than some types of sports betting, he said.

Narain said people are enjoying these games and may be looking for cash to use for more gambling.

“Consumers may want to fund other sports or casino bets and may be looking for the instant gratification opportunities that a quick dice roll or spin provides,” he said.

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