Ontario Unveils Online Gambling Plans

Based on an announcement earlier this month, Ontario will soon become the fifth Canadian province to offer provincially regulated online gambling. The other four provinces where intra-province Internet gambling is already well-established are Quebec, Manitoba, the Maritime provinces and British Columbia. Ontario is Canada’s most populated province and therefore expected to have the largest population of online gamblers. The idea of an online gambling web site to be operated under the oversight of the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) was first mooted in 2010. It has taken almost five years to resolve this politically complex issue. Over the last two years OLG has been engaged in developing the online gambling capability, which will now go by the name PlayOLG.ca.

PlayOLG.ca will not go public immediately. A statement from OLG revealed that 50,000 of its most loyal customers will first get a "sneak peak" into the new Internet gaming portal and will be invited to provide their feedback. This lucky group consists of members of OLG's Winner's Circle Rewards program. OLG spokesperson Tony Bitonti later clarified that the Winner's Circle players have already been e-mailed with the offer. He informed that PlayOLG.ca would begin with simple casino games like online slots and table games like blackjack. But ultimately video poker and arcade-style games would be added as would online poker, bingo and sports betting. Ontarians will also be able to purchase lottery tickets online.

It has been estimated that around 500,000 punters in Ontario already gamble online at offshore web sites, which OLG characterizes as the "grey market". In money terms the volume could be as much as CAD 500 million in revenues. The provincial government contends that this money should remain within the province for the benefit of the people. The OLG is owned by the state and returns almost CAD 2 billion to the provincial treasury each year. Once PlayOLG.ca goes public OLG will be able to contribute much more.

It is also expected that the online gambling demand will be greater once the trusted and efficient operator like the OLG enters the picture. Many potential Internet gamblers are steering clear of the grey market. OLG has emphasized responsible gambling in developing the new service. It has put in place mechanisms for age and ID authentication. Ontario punters will be allowed to set betting caps, will be shown a clock of how long they have been wagering and will be asked if they have been playing too long. The objective is to prevent gambling problems from developing.

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