Ontario to launch legal igaming market on April 4

This will conclude a process that dates back to April 2019, when the province’s government announced plans to end Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation’s monopoly on igaming, opening up the market to private operators. It then moved forward with these plans in November 2020, with legislation introduced and passed in 2021.

AGCO released its final igaming sports and event betting regulatory standards in September of last year, including changes to advertising standards and integrity rules.

Single-event sports betting officially launched in Canada on August 27, but is currently only offered by provincial lotteries.

The rules were integrated into AGCO’s existing Registrar’s Standards for Internet Gaming, which was published on July 14 last year, and will now come into effect on April 4.

From this date, private gaming operators registered with the AGCO and have in place an operating agreement with iGO can begin offering their games to players in Ontario.

“Consumers can be assured that companies who successfully enter the new Ontario market will have met rigorous standards of game and operator integrity, fairness, player protections and social responsibility, allowing all players to play with confidence,” IGO executive director Martha Otton said.

This will see measures to prevent underage gambling, ensure compliance with all applicable laws, and responsible gambling safeguards introduced from April 4.

“Today, most internet gaming by Ontarians takes place on websites not conducted and managed by the province,” Otton added. “Our new internet gaming market will give consumers enhanced entertainment choice, support the growth of a new, legal market and generate revenue that can help fund programs and services that benefit all of us.”

Penn National Gaming president and chief executive Jay Snowden, together with John Levy, chief executive of its subsidiary theScore, welcomed the news.

Last week, Penn National Gaming and theScore Bet venture became the first prospective private market operator in Ontario to secure the Responsible Gambling Check iGaming Accreditation from the Responsible Gambling Council (RGC) ahead of the market opening.

“Launching theScore Bet in Ontario will mark an exciting expansion of our online gaming business into a major new market where we already have an established mobile sports media product in theScore app and a wide base of loyal users,” Snowden said.

“Today’s news is very exciting, and I would like to recognize and congratulate the government of Ontario and the AGCO and iGaming Ontario for their dedication to creating a modern open and regulated sports betting and igaming market.”

Levy added: “The AGCO and iGaming Ontario have been thoughtful and collaborative in their approach to creating and managing this new industry, and the result is a soon-to-be-launched framework that will bring widespread benefits to Ontarians and establish Ontario as one of the biggest and most important regulated gaming markets in North America.”

He said theScore Bet “could not be more excited” to bring its sports betting and igaming offering to customers in its home province.

In December, affiliate Bonusfinder said the Canadian province of Ontario could become the most attractive online gambling market in all of North America when it launches. It cited factors such as the size of the population – which will be the second largest market on the continent after New York – the number of brands competing, and the potential size of bonuses on offer to consumers.

ICE London on track for April

Thanks to strong visitor demand, robust Covid-19 protocols and the UK government easing restrictions, the event will take place over 12 to 14 April at ExCeL London.

However, a small number of exhibitors such as Merkur, Novomatic and Scientific Games have announced they would not take part in this year’s rescheduled event. 

Hunter said this had “changed the dynamic of what visitors will experience at ICE London 2022”. 

But with more than 450 brands still attending the show and significant support from the buyer communities, he said Clarion Gaming remained focused on reuniting the industry. The event’s size still makes it the largest global gaming exhibition in the market, Hunter added.

“As a team we never like to lose any of our exhibitors but we will always respect their reasons for deciding not to participate,” he said. “Ours are lifetime customers and we are working with them to assist some in retaining a presence at ICE through sponsorship and by hosting clients at the event, while also confirming their return in 2023. 

“We always strive to stand shoulder to shoulder with the industry and our customers, both in good times and during more challenging periods.”

He noted that the ICE brand has always worked to represent the entire gaming ecosystem, including smaller businesses that rely on the show for a significant portion of their annual turnover.

The support for the new April dates remained strong, with independent research of 1,300 attendees conducted by Explori showing just under three quarters (74%) of those polled still plan to be at the show over 12 to 14 April. The new dates have also secured support from the European Casino Association, ensuring a large contingent of European land-based operators will be attending.

This research was undertaken prior to the UK government announcing that vaccinated international travellers will not be required to take a covid test upon arrival in England from 11 February. 

“This is a major development that will encourage more visitors to make the journey to London and be part of the ICE experience,” Hunter said. “In addition, the UK Government has moved to its Plan A Covid response which involves a significant easing of Covid restrictions, including the end of mandatory face masks and a relaxation of the rules applying to Covid certification passports. In these respects, the UK and ICE London are very much open for business.”

This would be supported by Clarion’s commitment to the event sector’s All Secure Risk Assessment Framework, a best practice guide for delivering events when Covid transmission remains a risk. 

Protocols had been fully tested through Clarion Events, and are flexible enough to respond and adapt to a dynamic and rapidly changing scenario, Hunter explained, to ensure the ICE experience can be both safe and business friendly. 

“We knew that the return to in-person events would not be straightforward but we also know from our experience staging iGB Live! in Amsterdam last autumn quite how much the industry has missed in-person events and the ability to meet, network and to do business,” Hunter said in conclusion. 

“The team is fully focused on the task ahead and will do whatever it takes to deliver an unforgettable celebration of the industry when it meets in London.”

Further announcements are due in the coming weeks on the initiatives and features that will add to the event, such as Pitch ICE, the Consumer Protection Zone and the Hosted Buyers programme, as well as the ICE VOX conference. 

Register here to book your place for ICE London 2022, which takes place from 12 to 14 April. For the ICE VOX conference, running from 11 to 13 April, you can see the programme and book tickets here.

New York online sports wagers surpass $1bn in opening 16 days

Players spent a total of $1.18bn in the period that the market launched on January 8 to the end of the second full week of legalization on January 23.

The New York State Gaming Commission also reported that gross gaming revenue for the period reached $91.4m.

Caesars Sportsbook, FanDuel, DraftKings and Rush Street Interactive all began operations on opening day on January 8, while BetMGM went live on January 17.

PointsBet also joined the regulated market on January 25, but as this was after the end of the 16-day reporting period, which ended January 23, it was not included in the report.

Caesars Sportsbook was the leading operator in the 16-day period, processing $487.4m in bets and bringing in $41.8m in revenue.

Flutter Entertainment-owned FanDuel ranked second with a $360.0m handle and $24.2m in revenue, then DraftKings with $265.5m in wagers and $21.8m in revenue.

BetMGM posted $40.6m in handle and $2.5m in revenue, while Rush Street Interactive, despite launching earlier than BetMGM, followed with a $22.2m handle and $1.2m in revenue.

The New York State Gaming Commission continues to publish weekly updates on its newly regulated market. The state’s handle for its first full week, plus two days from the prior week, was $603.1m, while revenue reached $48.1m.

New York is well on track to record the highest handle in a month for any state. In neighbouring New Jersey, players staked $1.30bn in November 2021.

Macau Legend CEO steps down after illegal gambling arrest

Macau Legend announced that Chan, who was also executive director and co-chairman, as well as being CEO of junket operator the Tak Chun Group, was arrested and detained by Macau Judiciary Police on 28 January as part of an investigation into a criminal syndicate that dates back to August 2019.

The Judiciary Police, meanwhile, announced that two men were taken into custody for gambling-related crimes on that date, though neither were named.

Police stated that the arrests were linked to those carried out in November, when SunCity chairman Alvin Chau was arrested for connections to an illegal gambling ring, along with 10 others.

The group allegedly recruited mainland Chinese residents to gamble online via offshore means.

The two men arrested this month “refused to cooperate” once arrested at a hotel on the Zape strip, according to a statement from the Macau Judicial Police.

Police seized a number of items from the hotel, including computers, electronic storage devices, network servers and relevant documents.

The men were transferred to the Public Prosecutions Office and charged with involvement in a criminal syndicate, illegally operating gambling and money laundering.

In a statement regarding his resignation, Macau Legend stressed that no matters regarding Chan’s resignation needed to be brought to the attention of the company’s shareholders.

But in a separate statement regarding his arrest the company advised shareholders and potential investors to “exercise caution” when dealing in Macau Legend shares.

Macau Legend also added that the incident is not related to any company affairs, but instead was a personal matter for Chan, and that it does not expect the incident to have an “adverse affect” on the business.

One week before the arrests, the Macau Judicial Police held a meeting with the Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau as it prepared to crack down on gambling-related crimes.

Attendants at the meeting, which included Judicial Police chief Xue Zhongming, deputy chief Chen Jianxiong and director of the gaming and economic crime investigation department Su Zhaoqiang discussed what they called “emerging criminal methods” and reviewed current crime prevention methods.

At the end November 2021, Alvin Chau announced his intent to resign from his roles of chairman and executive director of SunCity and chairman and non-executive director of Summit Ascent.

In December, SunCity announced that creditors intend to seize Chau’s assets, potentially including the business, after it was alleged that he defaulted on a HK$300m (£29.0m/€34.0m/US$38.5m loan following his arrest.

Entain to make metaverse push with new innovation lab

The hub, Ennovate, will be based in London and will include £40m of funds specifically earmarked for UK projects.

Businesses working alongside Ennovate include telecommunications businesses Verizon and BT.

Ennovate’s goals include developing new entertainment products for virtual reality space the metaverse.

“We want to lead the way with new, exciting products and experiences for customers and use our cutting-edge technology to pioneer innovations in sport, gaming and interactive entertainment for the metaverse,” Jette Nygaard-Andersen, chief executive of Entain, said.

“We also want to use our position as a global technology leader to help drive innovation more widely. Working with partners around the globe, Ennovate will demonstrate how Entain’s industry-leading technology can both revolutionise experiences for consumers and deliver real benefits to society.”

Technology showcased at the hub will include non-fungible tokens (NFTs), which Entain said it is developing for its brands, starting with PartyPoker which is set to launch its own NFTs soon. Virtual reality and augmented reality technology will also be showcased, as will “VR arcades”, retail sites at which customers can play virtual reality games.

Entain said the hub will also work to improve the representation of women in STEM industries through partnerships that form part of the EnTrain diversity and technology programme. Ennovate will work alongside existing EnTrain partners Girls Who Code and the Tech Girls Movement Foundation to achieve this goal.

Better Collective appoints Kindred’s Boeskov to new strategic role

In her new role, Boeskov will work with the Better Collective management team to support the group’s growth plans within the sports betting media market.

Boeskov will join Better Collective on 1 March from Kindred, where she has been for the past 17 years.

Her most recent role at Kindred was as chief experience officer, serving in the role for more than three years.

Prior to this, she was chief programme officer for over two years and also spent seven years as chief operating officer. Boeskov’s other roles at Kindred included heard of marketing communication services, head of acquisition services and business development manager. 

Boeskov also currently serves as an independent non-executive director of the Racecourse Media Group.

“I am excited to join Better Collective’s growing leadership team at this crucial stage of the company’s remarkable growth journey,” Boeskov said. “Scaling globally while transforming the business to secure a long-term sustainable performance are exactly the type of challenges I enjoy.

“I’ve followed the team from the sidelines for some years, and I’m deeply impressed with the culture and ambition of the organisation.”

Better Collective co-founder and chief executive Jesper Søgaard added: “I am very pleased that Britt has decided to join Better Collective and look forward to welcoming her as a member of the management team. 

“She knows the industry and she has vast experience at management level driving digital projects towards end-users. We are a growing company with very big ambitions and many ideas. Britt will become an important asset as we continue our future growth journey.”

The appointment comes after Better Collective earlier this month entered a sports betting partnership with US daily newspaper the New York Post, following confirmation it would roll out its services in the state’s newly regulated online sports betting market.

Esports Entertainment Group names Tilly as new COO

Tilly joined the business in August 2020 and served as its legal chief for 18 months before accepting the new position.

Prior to this, Tilly was chief executive for Argyll Entertainment AG, a British-licensed online sports betting and gaming business acquired by Esports Entertainment Group in October 2020.

Tilly also founded mobile games developer Flip Sports and still serves as chief executive of the business.

In addition, he is a founding member of the International Social Games Association, an industry trade body for the social gaming industry, and is both founder and executive director of iGaming Counsel, a legal and commercial advisory firm to the online gaming industry.

“Having played a role in the burgeoning expansion of the company’s operations through our M&A activity since joining the company in the summer of last year, I’m incredibly excited to now be entrusted with overseeing the next stage of the company’s operational growth as we look to maximise the potential of our business assets and execute on our long-term goals,” Tilly said.

Esports Entertainment Group chief executive Grant Johnson added: “Given the remarkable growth in the size, breadth and geographical reach of our operations and staff over the last 18 months, we had long identified this operations role as a critical one in enabling the Company to achieve its long-term strategic goals. 

“With Stuart’s extensive igaming knowledge, first-hand experience of launching and growing businesses together combined with his legal and regulatory background, we felt he was the ideal fit for this position.”

The appointment comes after Esports Entertainment Group last week received approval from New Jersey’s Division of Gaming Enforcement to begin accepting bets in the state. 

The operator was granted a transactional waiver, making it the first esports operator to receive a transactional waiver in New Jersey.

GambleAware issues warning over one million women at risk of gambling harm

The study found that among women experiencing high levels of harm, 39% may refrain from seeking help or treatment due to perceived stigma like feeling embarrassed or not wanting people to know about their gambling.

It was also revealed that gambling websites popular with women seemingly peak in the winter months, with total average traffic between December and March up 29% compared to the rest of the year.

GambleAware also noted that the number of women receiving treatment for gambling has doubled in the past five years – up from 1,134 in 2015-16 to 2,423 in 2020-21. 

However, while more women are accessing services such as The National Gambling Treatments Service or the National Helpline, GambleAware said this only represents a fraction of those experiencing gambling harms.

In response, GambleAware has now launched its first ever female-focused harms prevention campaign, with the aim to engage women around warning signs and where to seek support before gambling becomes harmful.

The new campaign highlights the three key warning signs to look for in someone who may be starting to experience harms from gambling including losing track of time, spending more than you can afford, and keeping your gambling secret from those around you. 

The campaign will launch with a video staring television personality Angellica Bell, speaking to gambling and health experts to highlight the unique stigma and challenges that women experiencing gambling harms may face.

“Our research shows women may not be aware they are starting to experience harm from gambling or, may be worried about reaching out for support due to stigma or shame,” GambleAware chief executive Zoë Osmond said.

“That’s why our campaign highlights the warning signs to look out for, so we can support women who gamble and prevent them from developing gambling harms.

Gambling Minister Chris Philp backed the initiative, saying: “I welcome this campaign to increase awareness of problem gambling among women. It’s vital that we continue to do all we can to protect those at risk from gambling-related harm.

“The gambling landscape has evolved immeasurably in the past 15 years and our comprehensive gambling act review will ensure our gambling laws offer the right balance of protections in the digital age.” 

Health Minister Gillian Keegan added: “While the economic costs of harmful gambling are stark, the cost to individuals and those around them as a result of their addiction cannot be overstated.

“This campaign is a fantastic way to raise awareness about the harms of gambling which can impact an individual, as well as their friends and family. By highlighting the early warning signs, supporting women and providing advice we can help to stop harmful gambling dead in its tracks.”

IOC implements safeguarding measures for Beijing 2022

Initiatives will include the ongoing monitoring of betting on all events and contests during the Games, managed by the Olympic Movement Unit on the Prevention of the Manipulation of Competitions (OM Unit PMC) via its IBIS platform.

The OM Unit PMC will work alongside partners such as Sportradar, the International Betting Integrity Association, Global Lottery Monitoring System, Council of Europe’s network of national platforms, betting regulatory authorities and private sports betting companies, with monitoring carried out remotely at Olympic House in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Over the past few months, the Unit also conducted an assessment of the seven winter sports and 15 disciplines on the Beijing 2022 programme to establish the risks of potential competition manipulation linked to sports betting, with the findings shared with International Sports Federations.

The IOC will retain a direct link with these federations during the games and flag any breach of the Olympic Movement Code on the Prevention of the Manipulation of Competitions. The IOC may also carry out a preliminary investigation and help set up a disciplinary commission if required.

This, the IOC said, would also see it cooperate with law enforcement authorities to address cases where collective and joint follow-up is appropriate and necessary.

Other activities will include a series of awareness-raising initiatives focused on the IOC’s wider ‘Make The Right Decision’ campaign, providing educational material such as a self-explanatory code of conduct, elearning course and educational toolbox for athletes.

“The code of conduct is at the heart of the campaign and sums up the rules that all athletes, coaches and officials need to be aware of,” the IOC said. “In Beijing, any accredited person must not bet on any Olympic events, or share inside information or, of course, manipulate a competition. 

“In addition, it is obligatory to report any information on a potential breach of integrity via the IOC integrity hotline.”

The IOC has collaborated with all federations and National Olympic Committees (NOCs) to help make athletes and other staff aware of these rules. The majority of NOCs have conducted online seminars or physical sessions to inform team members about manipulation and how it can be prevented. 

Athlete ambassadors, jointly selected by the IOC, federations and NOCs, have been supporting these activities, including Slovakian Olympic shooting medallist Danka Bartekova.

“It is critical to protect the integrity of sport,” Bartekova said. “Match-fixing and illegal betting completely ruin the passion of sport that all athletes have. We want to be clean, we want to play fair; and this is why we need to educate the athletes on this issue, so they are aware of how to protect their sport, and themselves.”

The 2022 Winter Olympic Games will take place from 4-20 February.

Rush Street Interactive to launch in Mexico with Multimedios deal

The two businesses have agreed a 25-year partnership in which Rush Street Interactive will operate both online casino and sports betting across Mexico through Grupo Multimedios’ licence.

Rush Street Interactive is expected to launch in Mexico in the second quarter of this year.

“We are excited to partner with Grupo Multimedios, one of the most respected media enterprises in Mexico, which we believe will serve as a great accelerant for building our online gaming operations in the country,” Rush Street Interactive chief executive Richard Schwartz said. “Mexico represents an attractive market opportunity, with a population of more than 130 million, which, when combined with Colombia’s population of 50 million, will expand RSI’s offering in Latin America significantly. 

“We were deeply impressed by Grupo Multimedios’ management team and long track record of success, including the growth of its digital businesses in Mexico, which will be extremely valuable as we launch and grow our business in Mexico.”

As well as its business in the US, Rush Street Interactive has operated the RushBet.co site in Colombia since 2018, a move that made the business the first US gaming company to launch in Latin America.

“As the first US gaming company to launch a regulated online gaming sportsbook in Latin America, we have a deep understanding and appreciation for the communities where we operate and the localisation that is needed to thrive in the Latin American market,” Schwartz added. “We look forward to leveraging the infrastructure, operations team, and relationships developed during our five years of business in Latin America as we expand our best-in-class online gaming platform to a growing Mexico market. 

“We are thrilled to build on our existing success in Latin America and will continue to expand our presence in the region and globally,” said Mr. Schwartz.

Multimedios co-CEO Angel Cong said RSi’s existing track record in both countries was a major part of why the partnership made sense.

“It is very exciting to start this partnership with RSI, their experience and amazing team will help our group achieve a new partnered vision of continuous growth and entrepreneurship,” Cong said. “RSI has been successful in the American and Colombian online casino and sportsbook markets; we have no doubt that together we will achieve the same in Mexico. 

“With this partnership, both RSI and Multimedios will take advantage of our media assets to be a strong and successful competitor.”