Making predictions is an awful lot like placing a bet. With the exception of a few folks, the wrongs far outnumber the rights.
So, instead of going down the road of misfiring on prognostications about the Canadian gambling industry over the next 12 months, we present some stories to watch in 2024, and a request or two.
So, there’ll be no prognosticating in this morning’s chronicles about what will move and shake the Canadian gambling landscape over the next 360-some days. Instead, we present some sundry thoughts on stories to watch along with a few wishes/requests.
- The announcement last fall that Kindred Group was pulling its Unibet brand out of Ontario and the U.S. states where it was operating renewed the conversation on what the Ontario landscape will look like on its second anniversary of regulated gaming this April. There will be the usual speculation of who’s next to leave, and potential consolidation. Two years into the market, however, it’s safe to say that 45-plus operators is an overcrowded house.
- There are still gambling companies interested in joining the Ontario market, so the clock is ticking on who’s next.
- The notion that another province will follow Ontario’s lead and create a regulated, competitive gambling industry in 2024 still appears to be of the far-fetched variety. Optimists point to Alberta, but Danielle Smith’s UCP party inspires little to no confidence when it comes to getting things done. Some words of advice to Dale Nally, the Minister of Service Alberta and Red Tape deduction: If you’re truly serious about creating a regulated sports betting and gambling regime, bring on board Danish gaming veteran Birgitte Sand (a major figure in creating Ontario’s regulated regime) or someone with her credentials to do the heavy lifting in creating a licensed industry.
- We continue to be more than slightly fixated on British Columbia. The province has an existing robust gambling presence, led by the likes of GeoComply (which has been quite vocal about regulated gambling coming to other provinces), Strive Gaming, Gateway Casinos & Entertainment and FansUnite Entertainment. Business is booming at BCLC, and we anticipate the presence of licensed competition would be healthy for the provincial lottery corporation on the west coast.
- But. . . . the BCLC is a member of the Pan-Canadian Coalition of Provincial Gaming Corporations, which has taken umbrage with regulated operators in Ontario whose ads show up on national television broadcasts. A coalition of those regulated businesses engaged in duelling correspondence between their respective legal beagles last spring, so it’s highly unlikely that the lottery corps - with apologies to Bill Shakespeare - will go quietly into the night.
- And speaking of coalitions, we will continue to monitor the ongoing efforts by the Quebec Online Gaming Coalition to bring regulated gaming to La Belle Province, and the ongoing efforts by Loto-Québec to see that doesn’t happen.
- Responsible gambling will continue to be a hot-button topic, so a few things to watch, including: With the AGCO’s new ad/marketing restrictions, will athletes, celebrities and influencers still under contract with operators be engaged in responsible gambling messaging? Does the industry and the Douglas Ford government come up with some funding for independent research on problem gambling to get a true sense of the issue in one of North America’s largest regulated gambling jurisdictions?
- Speaking of the Ford government, will it seize the opportunity to tell a good story about how the hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue being generated by the Ontario gaming industry is being spent?
- On the theme of storytelling, the industry needs to be better at telling its story to mainstream media. Canadian Gaming Association boss Paul Burns is a smart, calm voice of reason, but is too often alone on an island when it comes to representing the industry. The CGA, operators, suppliers and other ancillary businesses would be best served to have other industry leaders, and the leadership of the AGCO and iGaming Ontario inform and educate reporters, editors and producers of leading Canadian media entities.
- Regarding iGO, the AGCO’s lottery subsidiary corporation has hired market research/analytics company Leger to conduct a survey of industry stakeholders on the organization’s performance almost two years into the regulated marketplace. While Martha Otton, Mitch Davidson and the staff performed yeopersons’ duties in opening the market and bringing almost 50 operators into the fold, there’s frustration within the CGA and amongst operators there’s still not a central self-exclusion registry in Ontario, and also no province-wide anti-money laundering system. In an email sent to CGA members just before the holidays, Paul Burns suggested operators reach out directly to Kinectify - an AML technology company that’s been operating in the province for two years.
- There was an obvious pulling back of advertising last fall that should continue in 2024, and that could well turn the AGCO’s amended standards into a sidebar (secondary story).
- It’s (almost) all about the data, and we’d like to see more of it from sportsbooks and regulators to present a clearer picture of the industry in Canada.
- Last, but most certainly not least, we await the latest innovation when it comes to product, other technology, content, advertising/marketing and sponsorship (speaking of which, who comes on board as the first official betting partner of the Professional Women’s Hockey League?).
This story is presented in partnership with Gaming News Canada.