As mentioned in our recent bulletin, the Ontario government is in the process of developing the framework for a modern, competitive iGaming market in the province that welcomes private operators of iGaming offerings.
The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) has been selected by the province to lead the initiative and the provincial government and the AGCO have committed to seeking industry input on key components of the iGaming framework in Ontario. That consultation process was formally kicked off March 3, 2021, with the release of a discussion paper by the provincial government outlining the preliminary thinking on the structuring and operation of Ontario’s iGaming market. The initial discussion paper is detailed in our Blakes Bulletin: Stakes Are High: Ontario Seeks Input on How to Open I-Gaming Market. Interested parties have until April 16, 2021 to provide feedback and comments on the initial discussion paper.
On March 30, 2021, the AGCO continued the stakeholder engagement initiative with the launch of a stakeholder engagement portal. The engagement portal will allow industry stakeholders with an interest in iGaming to engage directly with the AGCO on the development of the Ontario iGaming commercial framework and regulatory model over the coming months.
As part of the launch of the engagement portal, the AGCO has made available for comment a draft of the Registrar’s Standards for Internet Gaming (Standards) and an associated discussion paper outlining the development process for the Standards, the key regulatory objectives underpinning the Standards and identifying the areas in which the AGCO is most interested in receiving industry feedback.
Industry stakeholders can access a template reporting form available on the engagement portal to provide comments on the draft Standards until April 30, 2021.
THE DRAFT STANDARDS
The AGCO is authorized under statute to establish risk-based standards to regulate Ontario’s gaming sector. As noted in the AGCO discussion paper accompanying the draft Standards, the objective of a standards-based regulatory model is to shift the focus from requiring registrants to comply with a specific set of rules or processes, toward the broader regulatory outcomes or objectives the gaming registrants are expected to achieve. The Standards outline the expected regulatory outcomes and are intended to offer individual registrants greater flexibility to determine how best to achieve the required regulatory outcomes or objectives.
The Standards, once finalized and once Ontario’s iGaming platform launches, will apply to all individuals and entities that are ultimately required to be registered with the AGCO, in respect of their iGaming-related activities. It is currently expected that this will include registered iGaming Operators, OLG (as the operator of an online offering), the subsidiary of the AGCO that will manage the commercial iGaming relationship between the province and private operators and certain gaming-related suppliers.
The proposed Standards are organized thematically and cover the below subject areas:
Entity Level. These standards relate to (1) the management, governance and internal accountability and oversight measures of registrants, and (2) various operational capabilities of registrants.
Responsible Gambling. The responsible gaming standards are intended to promote responsible gaming amongst participants. The responsible gaming standards address various elements of how particular gaming offerings and platforms are marketed and advertised to the public as well as game design elements and gaming limits.
Prohibiting Access to Designated Groups and Player Account Management. These standards address player eligibility and associated controls to ensure only eligible individuals are accessing play offerings.
Ensuring Game Integrity and Player Awareness. These standards broadly relate to game integrity, ensuring fairness of outcomes and a level playing field for all players and preventing cheating and collusion.
Public Safety and Protection of Assets. These standards address gaming equipment and information technology controls and security protocols to protect player information, play data and player funds.
Minimizing Unlawful Activity Related to Gaming. This group of standards relate to unlawful and criminal activity (e.g., money laundering, theft and cheat at play).
UPCOMING ENGAGEMENT OPPORTUNITIES
The AGCO engagement portal indicates that there will be further engagement opportunities in the coming months covering a wide range of topics, including eligibility requirements, regulatory compliance, commercial arrangements, data capture and storage and other technical aspects, and the service experience.
Interested individuals and organizations can sign up for email updates through the engagement portal.