Ontario casinos get a lifeline with sportsbook approval

November 9, 2022 6:32 PM
Photo: Shutterstock
  • Mark Keast, CDC Gaming Reports
November 9, 2022 6:32 PM

The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) tossed Ontario casinos a nice lifeline by announcing that sportsbook lounges and kiosks will be allowed in provincial casinos. 

Great Canadian Entertainment, with 12 casino destinations in Ontario, and Caesars Windsor were fast out of the gate with announcements that they will offer sports-betting kiosks. 

And days before, Kambi already had signed a deal with Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment to launch a sports-betting platform at Fallsview Casino Resort and Casino Niagara.  

“We feel OLG’s approval of sports betting for Ontario casinos is strategically important for a company like Great Canadian Entertainment, considering we recently undertook a rebrand of the company to emphasize the well-rounded and dynamic guest experience we are striving for at our 25 properties across Canada,” Chuck Keeling, executive vice president, Great Canadian Entertainment, told CDC Gaming Reports. “The ability to offer sports betting and sportsbooks at our Ontario properties is yet another milestone toward that goal.” 

Great Canadian Entertainment is getting closer to the full opening of their Pickering Casino Resort. While the gaming floor is in action, the casino just east of Toronto is waiting to open its 275-room 2,500-person entertainment venue soon. The company has also expanded Casino Woodbine (set to reopen in 2023) with a new gaming floor, 400-room hotel, and 5,000-person entertainment venue. With those reopenings, Keeling says the company will have pumped $2 billion in capital into the province.  

“So the launch of sports betting and sportsbooks is important in that larger context,” he added. 

Keeling said they currently have sports betting at 10 of their Ontario destinations, including sportsbook lounges at Great Blue Heron Casino & Hotel, Pickering Casino Resort, Elements Casino Brantford, and Shorelines Casino Belleville. The six other destinations offer sportsbook kiosks in existing gaming areas.  

Caesars Windsor currently has sports-betting kiosks inside the casino and will soon have a dedicated sports-betting lounge where people can watch live sports and bet. 

The OLG announcement about sportsbooks in the casinos was a long time coming, considering the provincial regulator has been accepting applications from operators looking to join the regulated Ontario market since Sept. 2021. The regulated Ontario market went live April 4.  

Canadian Gaming Association president and CEO Paul Burns was one of those who criticized the OLG for seemingly dragging its feet on making the announcement. Burns described the frustrating waiting period as “bashing your head against a wall.”  

As Burns said, with the OLG’s Proline sports betting product made legal going back to August 2021, they could have been open with retail sportsbooks in the fall of 2021. Was the OLG viewing the casinos offering sportsbook lounges with private operators more as competitors, or partners? 

Thus, Burns was one of the first to commend the OLG’s recent move. 

“This ongoing collaboration will result in new and expanded options for sports betting, including some first-of-their-kind sportsbooks in Canada, which will attract more people to visit Ontario’s casinos and encourage continued growth across the industry,” he said. 

Even with the recent OLG announcements, the market still isn’t at the point where sport-betting lounges will be allowed in sports stadiums, as are seen in many U.S. markets.  

Still, casino-industry people like Keeling will take it. In the end, it’s all baby steps. The pandemic did a number on all their businesses, so retail sportsbooks will be another step on the pathway out of the woods. 

“Having gone through the last several years with operational restrictions due to the pandemic was particularly tough on our teams across the country – for those that were furloughed, of course, but even for our teams that remained employed throughout that period,” Keeling said. “Although we have been fully reopened for several months now, it’s not lost on us how difficult that period was. Our primary focus now is continuing the rebuild of the business, especially as we work toward fulfilling the full vision for our company rebrand and the new assets we are bringing to market.”