Ontario Lottery and Gaming joins its British Columbia, Manitoba, Quebec and all the Atlantic provinces counterparts, by launching its online gambling site – PlayOLG, on January 8, 2015.
Amidst criticism from opposing parties in Ontario, PlayOLG was launched by Ontatrio Lottery and Gaming, becoming Ontario’s first online gambling site. The site, which allows gamblers to play online poker in Canada, also offers Blackjack, baccarat, single-person poker, roulette and game slots such as ‘Kitty Glitter’.
Over 3, 500 punters from a pool of 50, 000 loyal customers tested the new services. Spokesman for OLG, Tony Bitonti, said thanks to the overall good feedback from the test run they were able to adjust registration and verification methods.
$9,900 weekly maximum allowed
Gamblers can play for real or play for free even though customers won’t be able to play on mobile devices yet. Mobile applications will only be developed later when the OLG expands its sites and offers mobile-compatible games.
In the meanwhile, registration is mandatory for players to access the site. The weekly deposit limit is set at no more than $9, 999, although the weekly maximum for the average gambler is expected to be around $75-$80. Players can also withdraw money directly from bank accounts or make use of credit card transactions.
Competition with unregulated grey market sites
Bitonti explained that the decision to launch the PlayGo website came at a time when it seems that Ontarians currently spend between $400 and $500 million a year gambling on offshore gaming sites. OGL is giving them an alternative to putting their money on a site that is boasted to be legal and secure.
• ID and weekly limits obligatory
• Voluntary ‘Cool off’ period for players
• Projected $375Million profits in 5 yrs
Vice-President of Gaming, John Wisternoff, said the company was “excited to launch PlayOLG, an important milestone in the modernization of gaming in Ontario” but added that “Unfortunately, because of the competitive nature of iGaming — PlayOLG is now in a competitive marketplace with the unregulated grey market sites”.
The company has set up a time limit for play as well as password protection and identity verification, in its bid to guard against underage gaming. Players under 19 are not allowed to indulge in mobile betting and only customers over 18 can purchase lottery tickets for Lotto 6/49 and Lotto Max, on the new OLG site.
In reference to the Ontario Lottery and Gaming promise to pay out more money to the provincial government, Vic Fedeli, of the Progressive Conservative party, criticized the Liberal government for “looking for ‘nickels and dimes in the couch cushions’ in the government’s attempt to eliminate a $12.5 billion deficit by 2017-18”.
Fedeli went on to say that the government’s aim regarding the venture was to stack money in government treasury and saw the launch as being ‘awful’ and ‘very bad news’. The New Democrat party shared the same view and said it doesn’t see how OLG can keep under-aged gamblers off its site. NDP also foresees social hazards developing from expanded gambling.
It went on to describe the Liberal government’s attempt to procure tax revenues from the online site, under Canadian gambling law, as a non-progressive strategy. NDP fears that online gambling will further influence the already vulnerable parts of the society, who are incapable of controlling their spending.
Catherine Fife, a finance critic, also of the NDP, said that “If you’re in your basement gambling all day because it’s easy to do, you’re more likely to spend money that you don’t have. If anybody should take a lesson on that, it should be the Liberal government, which is desperate for revenue. The research and the evidence points to expanding online gambling leading to increased addiction and increased debt”.
Despite the controversy, OGL hopes to make a profit of over $375 million over the upcoming five years. The gaming operator did not disclose however, its projected operation costs or the private sector operator’s margin. It did however focus on the good, assuring its public that “the excitement”, is now, “just a click away”.