Clocking in as the second largest Canadian province (but most populous), Ontario is home to the most intense gambling activity in the country. Out of a total population of 13.5 million, reports conducted in recent years showed that a staggering 83% of Ontarians engage in gambling activities. With over 10,000 gambling sites spread across its territory, the percentage of players surpasses that in Quebec by a margin of 17%.
Moreover, the industry was booming until the global pandemic started taking its toll. For comparison, back in 2017, Ontario was generating a whopping 43% of all gambling revenue within Canada’s borders, raising the bar to a colossal CA$17.3 billion, nationwide. The province was leading the surge and Ontario enjoyed a hefty rise in percentages in all matters regarding lottery, online gambling, charitable gaming, and casinos.
Over the course of the next fiscal year, however, Ontario has been showcasing a slight downward trend in gambling activity – and consequently revenue share – with the total funds raised from gambling in 2018 amassing to “only” CA$5.0 billion. In 2019, things seemed to get back on track, with gambling parlors sprinkled across the province’s territory shoveling in a whopping CA$8.0 billion.
Then, there was a slight hiccup – or cough, if you will (pun intended). As the pandemic set in, Ontario has been forced to adopt preventative measures. In doing so, the province forfeited a very large chunk of profits. The annual report for 2019/20 shows that only CA$2.3 was generated in gambling revenue. Alternatively, the prognosis for 2020/21 is not encouraging by any means – only $200 million is expected to be made until the end of the current fiscal year.
Ontario’s Legal Standpoint
So, what’s up with those fluctuations, you may ask? It’s simply that when it’s going well, it’s going well. But when it’s going bad, though, officials seem to be heeding the alarming news in a bid to improve the situation, at least. Time will tell which measures will actually be implemented, but it’s good to see that there is a growing awareness surrounding the topic.
The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) makes for the primary regulatory body in the province, and it is in charge with overseeing all gambling venues (online or brick-and-mortar), including racetracks, plus services and tools offered through the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG).
OLG is the sole government-owned gambling venture, but it offers a varied array of both online casino entertainment, as well as land-based gambling options. Players seeking to join in must be at least 18 years off age to purchase lottery tickets and 19 or above to participate in any other gambling activities.
Some of the most notable gambling sites in the area are Woodbine Racetrack and Woodstock Raceway that also house a modest collection of OLG slots. Casino-wise, the Great Blue Heron, Thunder Bay, Shorelines Casino Thousand Islands and the infamous Caesars Windsor are just some of the best land-based options to choose from.
However, as online gambling finds itself on an ever-ascending slope, Ontario residents have started shifting more and more towards the massive offering offshore casinos bring to the table. And that’s perfectly fine with the officials. Not in the sense that in recent years, the government has been losing billions of dollars because of the murky regularization surrounding sports betting, but more like you won’t have legal issues (nor support from the local government) if you choose to place bets with one.
However, the officials have changed their stance (at least on single-event sports betting), touting even more beneficial developments in the future.
OLG’s Reassurances and Recommendations to Players
While officials are focusing on improving the sole proprietary online casino, gambling afficionados that are looking for premium casino experiences in land-based venues have a lot of good options to choose from.
Even though intimidatingly picturesque, the Fallsview Casino Resort situated right on the shore of the world-renowned Niagara Falls doesn’t come close to its equally impressive Windsor Caesars in terms of betting limits. Hence, as Fallsview acts as one of the most important poker tournament hotspots in the country (also complete with hundreds of slot machines and table games), Caesars allows betting limits as high as $25,000 on Blackjack and peaking at a whopping $50,000 for roulette.
Ontario Gambling Awareness & Support
While the prevalence of problem gambling among youth aged 10 to 24 worldwide ranges from 0.2% to 12.3%, studies conducted in recent times on the Ontarian player base have shown that approximately 2.2% of the province’s youth falls under this worrying category.
For this purpose, the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care came up with the YGAP (Youth Gambling Awareness Program). As opposed to its name, however, the directive doesn’t focus exclusively on the young gamblers. In an effort to counteract the negative pull of gambling, YGAP offers its support services in both English and French with extension to parents, professionals, and adults.
To tackle the issue at hand, YGAP offers interactive workshops in camp settings, classrooms or community centers which can be booked either as a series or as a singular event.