Online gambling has seen a meteoric rise in the Canadian province of Ontario, surpassing even sports betting in terms of total wagers placed.
The latest data from iGaming Ontario (iGO), a subsidiary of the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario, has revealed fascinating insights into this thriving market.
Ontario officially launched its regulated online gambling market in April 2022, becoming the first province in Canada to regulate online gambling.
The move has paid off, with the province witnessing a significant surge in online gambling activities. The latest figures from iGO highlight the growing popularity of internet casino games compared to sports-related betting.
According to iGO's recent report, Ontario residents placed a staggering CA$14 billion in total wagers in the second quarter of 2023. Of this amount, $11.6 billion was spent on online casino games, while $2 billion was wagered on sports. The remaining $350 million was attributed to peer-to-peer poker.
Ontario's regulated iGaming market has seen rapid growth, with over 60 online casinos and betting sites operating legally in the province in 2023. This is a significant number, unmatched by any other province in Canada.
This boom in online gambling generated $1.4 billion in gaming revenues in the first year itself, with the Ontario government receiving a share of approximately $260 million.
Despite the impressive success of the iGaming market, the Ontario government doesn't shy away from highlighting the resources it has deployed to tackle problem gambling and safeguard consumers.
"As the results show, we are a national leader through our online gaming market," said Andrew Kennedy, spokesperson for the provincial attorney general.
Kennedy expressed that the province provides $31 million annually for addressing problem gambling. An additional $25 million is allocated toward treatment programs, and $6 million is reserved for education and prevention efforts.
The rise in gambling activities raises concerns about the increasing probability of gambling addiction and harm. Nigel Turner, a scientist at the Toronto-based Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), who studies behavioral addictions, including gambling, voiced concerns about the startling growth reported by iGO.
"We've been really inundated with sports-betting advertising," said Turner. "We've also been inundated with online-casino advertising."
He agrees that if more people are gambling, it would be expected that more people will have gambling problems.
The iGO data provides a breakdown of the gaming segments over the first year of the regulated market. From April 2022 to March 2023, the market saw total wagers of $35.6 billion, with $28 billion spent on casino games and peer-to-peer bingo.
This was roughly four times higher than the $7 billion spent on sports and esports betting. Peer-to-peer poker wagers totaled $992 million for the year.
These gambling activities combined to generate $1.4 billion in gaming revenues, with $940 million coming from the casino segment and $433 million from betting.
The future of iGaming in Ontario looks promising despite the potential risks. As the industry continues to expand and refine its offerings, Ontario is set to remain a leading player in this field.
"The differences in segment performance have followed expected form," said Peter Czegledy, underlining the gap between the activity in casino games and sports-related products in Ontario.
As the iGaming scene continues to evolve in Ontario, the province remains committed to promoting responsible gambling while ensuring the growth and success of this burgeoning industry.