Canadian Gaming Summit: Responsible-gambling safeguards and the educated consumer

June 14, 2023 12:04 PM
Photo: CDC Gaming Reports
  • Mark Keast, CDC Gaming Reports
June 14, 2023 12:04 PM

As Bruce Caughill, managing director Canada for Rush Street Interactive, pointed out at yesterday’s Player Protection Symposium at the Canadian Gaming Summit in Toronto, a lot of positive benefits are coming out of a regulated market, player protection being one of them.

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Other provinces are taking notice of the Ontario model, especially when they see the revenue numbers.

Caughill was on a panel with Troy Ross, president of TRM Public Affairs, Lindsay Slader, SVP compliance of GeoComply, and Brianne Doura-Schawohl, founder and CEO of Doura-Schawohl Consulting LLC on the topic of differentiating between legal and illegal sites and promoting responsible-gambling safeguards.

Ross referenced Ontario’s hybrid model – the provincial lottery corporation, along with the regulatory regime for private operators – and that, anecdotally speaking, the Ontario Lottery Corporation has recorded a 20 percent uptick in revenues year over year since the new market launched.

Rush Street Interactive is part of a coalition (that also includes Betway, Bet99, DraftKings, Entain, Flutter, Games Global, and Apricot Investments) that aims to change the regulatory framework in Quebec to a model similar to Ontario, which will help address growing concerns about consumer safety, responsible gambling, and advertising, while increasing government revenues based on a new licensing regime.

“I know other provinces are looking [at Ontario],” Caughill said. “I can’t speak to what measures they will take or what their models will look like, but we know there’s lots of conversation. It’s been good to see the OLG talk about the benefits to their business. And when you talk about the penetration of responsible-gambling measures, it’s undeniably better in a competitive regulated market.”

Yesterday’s focus of the one-day symposium, which featured a series of panels, was on player protection, but as Ross added, looking at other provinces where government lotteries hold monopolies, “If OLG has around 20 percent of market share in Ontario now, and even if it’s true what the other provincial operators and lotteries are saying about their capturing 40-50 percent of the market share in the online space, that leaves half in play in those other jurisdictions.

“The consumers have chosen. They want choice. The question for policy makers is, do you want a hybrid model by design or do you want a hybrid model by default? That’s the choice the government of Ontario made when they decided to regulate the market, recognizing there is this huge gray market out there and the best way to protect the maximum number of players is to do both [hybrid model].”

There are three distinct categories of gambling sites in Canada, Ross said. The first is clearly legal, like OLG and BCLC. Second, unregulated operators in most of the rest of the country are regulated in Ontario (and in the vast majority of European jurisdictions, a growing number of U.S. jurisdictions, and are asking to be regulated in the rest of Canada). Third are the clearly illegal online-gaming sites. There is no shortage of the third category; illegal sites have no responsible-gambling features and don’t care what happens to the customer base. They’re just in it for the profit.

At the one-year regulated-market anniversary point in early April, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario quoted an IPSOS survey showing the success the province has had in shifting players from gambling on unregulated sites to regulated sites: 85.3 percent of respondents to the survey released in March who gambled online in Ontario over the previous three months played on regulated sites.

“That’s significant,” Ross said. “It means all those people, whether they’re playing regulated sites or lottery sites, are seeing all those high-level consumer and responsible-gambling protections. So if the objective is what’s in the best interests of the citizens, it’s a hybrid policy by design.”

No government monopoly site will or can offer the range of products and services that consumers are demanding, Troy added, citing the statistic that there were 10 million attempts to access legal Ontario gaming sites from B.C. in the fourth quarter last year.

“The fact is, B.C., like every other province in the country, has had access to gray-market online sites for two decades,” he said. “If there are 10 million attempts coming from a jurisdiction that already has access to gray-market sites and those consumers also want to try Rush Street [which operates only in regulated markets, Caughill said], it says those players want to keep trying other sites.”

As Caughill said, the benefits so far in Ontario are right there on paper. “What you’re seeing is a bump in the provincial lottery corporation revenues and we’ve heard it described by OLG executives as the kick in the ass we needed,” he said.

Doura-Schawohl added that it’s been shown that consumers want to go to a site where they feel protected.