Lack of Opposition Surprising
The aspect of Ontario’s Internet Gaming Framework that I find most surprising is the lack of opposition to it. Gambling is a divisive issue, and whenever there are attempts to expand and normalize gambling, there will usually be opposition to that expansion and normalization. This lack of opposition is particularly surprising given the questionable legal foundation upon which the iGaming Framework is based.
My first day at Dickinson Wright was the same day that the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) announced its Modernization Plan.
The Modernization Plan was an almost-instant disaster. HERE is a 2014 CBC Article summarizing Auditor General of Ontario Bonnie Lysyk’s report roasting the OLG’s Modernization Plan and execution of that plan. Some of the difficulties OLG has had are neatly summarized in this recent Toronto Star article (behind a paywall, sorry) by Christine Dobby called “The Inside Story of How the OLG Lost Control of Ontario’s Online Gambling Market”
The most fiercely debated public issue at the time the Modernization Plan was announced was whether to build a casino in downtown Toronto. Numerous editorial pieces were written on the topic (see HERE, HERE, and HERE for example), and it was a popular subject for friends and acquaintances to opine (always unsolicited). Ultimately the plans to build a casino in downtown Toronto were scrapped. The closest casino to downtown Toronto is at Woodbine Racetrack, around 30 minutes from downtown.
When Ontario announced its iGaming Framework, my initial response was “they can’t do that”. I didn’t understand how Ontario could develop a licensing framework that complied with its conduct and manage obligations (technically it’s not “licensing”). Now that the framework is in place, I still don’t understand how this can legally happen. But what is truly mystifying has been the lack of opposition. No opposition from the usual morality-based groups, no opposition from an astroturfing campaign by entities who don’t want this licensing framework for their own commercial reasons.
If you’re interested in a well-written substantive article on the questionable legal basis for the iGaming Framework, Ron Segev has written an article that, in my view, perfectly encapsulates the legal concerns surrounding the iGaming Framework. The article is titled “Ontario: is the province’s hands-off approach illegal?” and its from August 2021.
Segev also (again, in my view) correctly identifies that Ontario’s iGaming Framework is a provincial solution to a national issue, and will lead to additional confusion and uncertainty once operators are permitted to launch in Ontario.