The OLG is ready to legalize online gambling in Ontario, which it says is part of its gaming modernization strategy. The organization says given the legalization in New Jersey as well as Manitoba enacting a PlayNow.com website that is licensed from British Columbia, Ontario will fall behind and lose millions of dollars without enacting its own online gaming legislation.
OLG spokesperson Tony Bitonti confirmed the organization plans to legalize online gambling in Ontario by the fall. He says this will prepare gamers for land-based casinos or serve as a replacement if communities reject the casino proposals this spring. The OLG estimates that Ontarians spend as much as $500 million on internet bets using offshore online casinos, and the province is unable to capitalize on that gambling revenue.
“That gray market cash is going to Malta and going to the Isle of Man. It’s not staying in Ontario.”
Earlier this week New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed an online gambling bill into law, which Bitonti says gives Ontario gamers an offshore online gambling hub closer to home. The new law in New Jersey follows an announcement from the Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries Corporation earlier this year that their province will enact a PlayNow.com website. PlayNow.com originated in BC, and has successfully increased revenues to the western province’s budget by the millions.
Bitonti says the gambling market has changed over the last few years. Ontario and its casinos relied on poker rooms for increased revenues due to the explosive popularity of the game on TV and the internet. However, as online casinos have become more popular, the poker popularity has shifted to internet betting and Bitonti says the OLG needs to recapture its share of that market.
“The market peaked. Several years ago poker was all over TV. You couldn’t turn a channel without seeing a poker tournament. Poker rooms were very busy at those times.”
Bitonti says the OLG is committed to legalize online gambling for the fall.